The FCC has steadily maintained that it wants to begin the reverse auction for $16 billion in the Phase I Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program to extend broadband service to unserved areas as soon as possible. The Commission slipped just slightly on the goal today, announcing that it would propose to begin that auction on Oct. 29, a week later than it originally planned.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for the Commission to continue its work to ensure that all Americans have access to high-speed broadband as soon as possible. That’s one reason why we’re moving full speed ahead with the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in a press release.
Pai said the FCC will vote on the procedures for the reverse auction at its next monthly agenda meeting on June 9, where it will approve the new Oct. 29 start date. It will also set the dates for other important pre-auction milestones:
- June 15: An online tutorial on how to fill out the “short-form” reverse auction application.
- July 1: The window for filing short-form applications opens.
- July 15: The short form filing window closes.
- Oct. 14: Online tutorial for those who wish to participate in a mock auction.
- Oct. 26: Mock auction.
The new schedule comes as some on Capitol Hill have called on the FCC to speed up the RDOF timetable from its original Oct. 22 start date. Some believe a provision affecting RDOF policy could be included in the final version of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act (HR-6800), which the House passed on Friday.
The House bill includes a provision requiring the FCC to accept unchallenged bids for symmetrical gigabit service in unserved areas within 30 days after the short-form deadline. That would be Aug. 17 under the new timetable and more than two months before the auction’s newly proposed start date.
NRTC has formed an RDOF Bidding Consortium of several members who plan to participate in the auction. That group is current working on short-form submissions. For more information, write to RDOF@nrtc.coop.