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All NRTC Members Should Review RDOF-eligible Census Block List

Randy Sukow / Mar 17, 2020

The FCC this morning released a “preliminary list” and map of the census blocks across the nation that will be eligible for funding through the Oct. 22 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) reverse auction. These are the locations that the FCC believes are unserved by 25/3 Mbps service, based on the latest available FCC Form 477 data. With this release, rural internet providers have a limited time to challenge the list if they feel that it is inaccurate.

The Commission is giving providers until April 10 to file a challenge.

“This isn’t just about those who are looking at RDOF,” said Steve Pastorkovich, NRTC's senior director, Broadband Funding & Development. “It is important to all members who provide or are planning to provide broadband. If a census block they serve appears on this list, they’ll want to alert the FCC. Otherwise, another provider could bid for that area and receive support to overbuild them.”

Challenges to the census block list will fall into three categories. Some will be claims that service has begun in a census block since the last Form 477 filing. In other cases, filers can identify census blocks where internet providers have already received some form of grant or federal support to build broadband making them ineligible for RDOF support. Finally, rate-of-return telcos may point out census blocks in their service areas that are not on the list but should be because they do not serve those areas.

“The Bureau will release the final list of eligible blocks prior to the short-form application deadline.  Between now and then, we expect to update the list to reflect any comments received identifying areas for exclusion or inclusion consistent with the three categories identified above,” the FCC said. The short-form application deadline has not yet been announced. It likely will be a few months before the start of the auction.

In addition to the list of census blocks and a census block map, the FCC also released an updated state-by-state list of eligible census block totals (above). California and Texas top the list with 473,522 and 364,213 eligible locations respectively. North Dakota had the fewest number of locations at 3,346.

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