FCC boots some RDOF recipients, has questions for others

Aug. 3, 2021
“This program can do great things, but it requires thoughtful oversight,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stated on July 26 that it is ready to authorize the release of $311 million in funding via the the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). However, the agency also says it plans to “clean up” the program.

That desire saw the Commission reject requests from AB Indiana and LTD Broadband for program deadline extensions and send letters to 197 awardees asking them if they wish to withdraw their RDOF requests “from those places already with service or where significant questions of waste have been raised.”

The FCC also issued what it called an initial list of RDOF winners in default of their obligations.

“This program can do great things, but it requires thoughtful oversight,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “That’s why we are refocusing the program on unserved areas and putting winning bidders on notice of their obligation to ensure that support goes to the areas that need it. And for those applicants who are dragging their feet or can’t meet their obligations, follow the rules or we will disqualify you and move on.”

The FCC says 48 broadband providers will receive funding to enable gigabit broadband to nearly 200,000 homes and businesses in the U.S. over the next 10 years. However, as Rosenworcel indicated, the FCC also threatened to revoke funding from several other potential RDOF recipients.

For example, in an order issued July 26, the FCC ruled that AB Indiana and LTD Broadband “failed to engage in good faith efforts to pursue and obtain the required ETC [eligible telecommunications carrier] designation from the states for which we deny their petitions.”

Those states are Florida in the case of AB Indiana and California, Oklahoma, and Kansas in LTD Broadband’s case.

LTD, which describes itself as “4th largest fixed-wireless WISP in the U.S.” yet bid for RDOF money with promises of laying fiber, also has sought a deadline waiver for programs in five other states (Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas); the FCC has not yet ruled on those.

Meanwhile the 30-page default list includes awarded areas that the recipients or their subsequent assignees have informed the FCC they no longer intend to pursue.

Notable names on the list include Atlantic Broadband, Charter Fiberlink, and Time Warner Cable Information Services. All of the areas covered in the default list will be eligible for future funding programs, said the FCC.

Finally, the 197 letters address instances that have engendered “complaints that the program was poised to fund broadband to parking lots and well-served urban areas,” in the words of the FCC. Elon Musk's Starlink Services is among the companies receiving such letters, as are affiliates of Cable One, Charter Fiberlink, Cox, Lumen/Centurylink, Midco, Time Warner Cable Information Services, and Windstream.

-- Stephen Hardy, BROADBAND TECHNOLOGY REPORT

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