In what could be termed Part II in the push for rural 25/3 Mbps, the FCC offered rate-of-return (RoR) carriers that have opted for legacy regulation to make the shift to the Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM). In return, RoR carriers would be eligible for increased funding similar to the $65.7 million funding boost the Commission authorized current A-CAM telcos earlier this week. But like current A-CAM telcos, legacy telcos would be required to deploy 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream service throughout their service areas.
Legacy telcos have until June 17 to make their decision. What might make the decision easier … the FCC also released a notice outlining future obligations for telcos that do not take the A-CAM offer. Essentially, legacy telcos will soon have to provide 25/3 Mbps service anyway under an order the FCC adopted in late 2018. The Commission estimates that the two initiatives will increase the number of rural homes with 25/3 service by more than a million.
“The steps the FCC took in December that are being implemented today will give providers choices on how best to obtain the support needed to improve and sustain broadband access in the deeply rural areas they serve,” said NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield in a statement. “Access to high-speed broadband is critical to providing essential services like health care, education, and emergency response. It is also a necessary condition for building businesses and driving economic success.”
However, Bloomfield said that NTCA is reviewing the details of the A-CAM offer and had “hope” that it would improve opportunities for its rural telco members.