By surrendering its Louisiana locations, 'Altice is ensuring that remaining unserved areas are eligible to receive federal funding to support symmetric gigabit speeds through programs like NTIA's [BEAD] Program,' said the company.

Nicole Ferraro, Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast

March 18, 2024

3 Min Read
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Altice has alerted the FCC that it will default on a series of census block groups (CBGs) where it was awarded broadband funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). In a letter, the company said it is releasing the locations so they may be made available for the much larger Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

Altice, which won RDOF funding in Louisiana through its affiliate Cebridge Telecom LA, did not cite any particular hardship in serving those locations. Instead, it said it had "begun connecting unserved locations in its RDOF areas" but that, by relinquishing these locations, "Altice is ensuring that remaining unserved areas are eligible to receive federal funding to support symmetric gigabit speeds through programs like NTIA's Broadband Equity Access and Deployment ('BEAD') Program."

The letter notes that Louisiana is "in the process of finalizing its BEAD eligibility map and removing these CBGs as federally-funded will permit them to receive even higher speeds."

Louisiana received NTIA approval on its full BEAD proposal late last year – the only state yet to do so – and is expected to be the first state to start rolling out BEAD grants. It's unclear whether providers defaulting on RDOF locations will still be eligible to receive BEAD support for those same locations.

Related:Broadband coalition asks FCC to grant RDOF relief for BEAD's sake

RDOF v. BEAD

The Altice letter comes amid a broader debate about RDOF and its impact on the BEAD program.

The FCC is currently soliciting comments on a petition filed by a group of broadband stakeholders requesting that the agency offer a brief amnesty period to allow RDOF winners to surrender their locations with minimal penalties, in order to make more locations available for BEAD. The concern, the group argues, is that if RDOF winners don't fulfill their obligations, those locations will also miss out on getting connected through BEAD.

But in a filing last week, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association argued that if the FCC allows for additional RDOF defaults, the defaulting providers should also be disallowed from bidding on those same locations for BEAD. The group further told the FCC that defaulting providers should pay a prorated penalty. It warned that, without penalties, the FCC will create "perverse incentives that reward parties who 'bid low' in one program (and thus precluded others from serving certain areas) by allowing those same parties now to 'hop' to a different program based upon perceived better terms and economics, even while committing to deliver nothing better in doing so."

Related:Rural broadband group wants 'specific conditions' on RDOF waivers

Altice, in its letter to the FCC about surrendering its Louisiana locations, said it understands that "it may be subject to the applicable non-compliance rules." But it added that it "reserves and retains its rights to seek relief from any penalties, including waiver of the Commission's rules, as well as seek other relief as may be necessary."

About the Author(s)

Nicole Ferraro

Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast, Light Reading

Nicole covers broadband, policy and the digital divide. She hosts The Divide on the Light Reading Podcast and tracks broadband builds in The Buildout column. Some* call her the Broadband Broad (*nobody).

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