The FCC this morning announced the end of the Phase I Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF) reverse auction. Formal bidding ended Wednesday, Nov. 25, but the Commission waited to review the numbers before announcing today that 180 bidders in 49 states won $9.2 billion in support through the auction.
The NRTC Phase I RDOF Consortium was among the entities on the winners list. NRTC members participating in the consortium will be eligible for more than $156 million in support paid over 10 years. First, however, funding recipients must fill out a “long-form” application before collecting the first installments. The filing window for long forms is Jan. 14-29, 2021.
Under FCC rules, NRTC is prohibited from communicating details about the auction or the individual members who participated. The Commission did reveal that NRTC members in 14 states were among the support winners. NRTC looks forward to providing those details when the prohibition lifts soon after the long form filing deadline.
RDOF Phase I began in late October with a total budget of $16 billion. The Commission planned the Phase I auction to fund broadband construction in rural census blocks widely believed to be completely unserved with broadband service of 25 Mbps downstream or faster.
The Phase II auction for $4 billion in support is to fund partially served census blocks, as determined by new mapping approved by the Commission’s current mapping initiative. However, it is unknown when the mapping will be complete and when Phase II will begin.
The $9.2 billion to be distributed after Phase I is significantly less than the budgeted $16 billion. It may be up to the in-coming FCC whether it will apply the $6.8 billion difference to Phase II.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the Phase I auction, “the single largest step ever taken to bridge the digital divide and another key success for the Commission in its ongoing commitment to universal service.” Last week, Pai announced that he will step down from the FCC on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
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