NRTC Broadband Solutions President Jim DaBramo and I enjoyed participating in a session at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives’ (AMEC) Feb. 3 meeting in Jefferson City, MO. As you might expect, rural broadband technology and the FCC’s $20 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) was on everyone’s mind.
Jim opened the discussion (pictured left) by reviewing NRTC’s belief that cooperatives should use any technology or equipment that makes sense for them, based on local needs. NRTC can help at any stage of a broadband project and at any stage of a broadband network’s life cycle – feasibility, design, construction, and operations. Members also can call upon NRTC to serve as a turnkey solution provider.
I then took a turn at the podium to talk about RDOF, starting with the $16 billion Phase I procedure the FCC recently adopted. The Commission will conduct a reverse auction later this year to bring service to qualified census blocks, which the FCC defines as those with service of less than 25 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 3 Mbps up. It will weigh auction bids by speed, treating faster services more favorably.
There are benefits to bidding in the RDOF reverse auction as part of a consortium rather than individually. A consortium can significantly lower the costs associated with completing initial qualifying paperwork at the outset. Participants can also share the costs of legal and bidding experts. Importantly, consortium members can also collaborate to a degree with each other, which would not be permitted if they were bidding separately.
NRTC plans to form a bidding consortium to make it easier for members to participate in the RDOF process. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more.
Steve Pastorkovich is NRTC’s senior director of Broadband Funding and Development.
Update, Feb. 7: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai penciled in Oct. 22, 2020, as the start date of the Phase I RDOF reverse auction in a blog post yesterday. He scheduled a vote on a Public Notice to set that date during the next Commission month agenda meeting on Feb. 28. “In addition to setting a start date, this Notice builds on the successes and lessons learned from the CAF Phase II auction to ensure that Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I is our most successful reverse auction yet,” Pai said.