Rural associations NRECA, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and ACA Connects – America’s Communications Association (formerly the American Cable Association) are urging the FCC to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “as soon as possible” to form the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the Commission’s intention to create the new $20.4 billion rural broadband support program during an April event at the White House.
“The Commission’s universal service programs have successfully reduced the number of unserved locations by many millions,” the rural groups said in a letter to the Commission late last week. “Now is the time to build on that accomplishment. With the price cap CAF Phase II cost-model program ending in about two years, the Commission should seize this great opportunity and proceed promptly to award the next phase of support and drive the availability of even higher performance broadband services throughout rural America.”
The FCC has revealed little detail about the new program since the White House gathering, except to say that RDOF is to be a successor program to the Connect America Fund reverse auctions and that the target for an RDOF auction is 2020.
Some of the latest universal service actions in the wake of CAF clear the way for expeditious drafting RDOF rules, the rural association said. The FCC has established “a sound foundation” for reverse auction rules through CAF Phase II program. Quick action on RDOF rules also gives the Commission an opportunity to move forward with a challenge process for Form 477 data.
“Even with the granular collection proposals on the table, it will be difficult to ensure the data accurately reflect served and unserved locations, especially for providers using network technologies where coverage and performance can be highly variable,” they said. “In the long run, a challenge process appears necessary to ensuring deployment data are accurate.”