More than 150 U.S. senators and representatives of both parties called for the FCC to “thoroughly vet” the winners of the recently concluded Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) reverse auction. Some auction participants have questioned the qualifications of certain bidders in the aftermath of the auction. Bids from these participants might have contributed to driving down levels of support the FCC awarded in the auction, which at $9.2 billion was well below the budgeted $16 billion.
“We urge the FCC to validate that each provider in fact has the technical, financial, managerial, operational skills, capabilities, and resources to deliver the services that they have pledged for every American they plan to serve regardless of the technology they use,” the congressional signers said in a letter to the Commission dated yesterday. “We also strongly encourage the FCC to make as public as possible the status of its review and consider opportunities for public input on the applications.”
The FCC is beginning the “long-form” review process of declared winners in the reverse auction. Awardees must submit more complete financial information and details on their planned network designs than they submitted in the pre-auction “short-form” process. A long-form rejection could potentially lead to a bidder losing anticipated support.
“NRECA strongly supports lawmakers' call for a thorough vetting of long-form applications, because we are concerned that some RDOF winners do not have the capability to provide the service promised, short-changing rural Americans who desperately need fast and reliable broadband service,” the association said on the Coop-com website.
NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield also backed statements in the letter, saying, “There is far too much money at stake and far too many consumers on hold to gamble on confidential promises about unproven service capabilities that might only be found to fall short years from now. The real success of this effort will be defined not by the auction results themselves but by the actual delivery of robust and reliable broadband to rural consumers.”
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