FCC approves RDOF spending with FWA providers Starry, Nextlink, othersFCC approves RDOF spending with FWA providers Starry, Nextlink, others
Nextlink Internet, Starry, GeoLinks, GigaBeam Networks and Anthem Broadband are among the fixed wireless Internet providers getting approvals from the FCC.
August 31, 2022
Nextlink Internet, Starry, GeoLinks, GigaBeam Networks and Anthem Broadband are among the fixed wireless access (FWA) Internet providers that received Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) approvals from the FCC on Wednesday.
The move signals the FCC's belief that fixed wireless technology can meet the agency's requirements for broadband in rural areas.
It's an important development for FWA, given that the US government is preparing to allocate more than $40 billion for broadband in rural areas via the NTIA's Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. FWA providers have been trying to convince regulators to include their services in funding plans.
"We are excited to partner with the FCC to deploy gigabit connectivity to households across rural America," Nextlink CEO Bill Baker said in a statement. The company noted that the FCC authorized $429 million in RDOF payments to Nextlink to build fiber and wireless Internet in rural communities across 11 states in the Midwest.
"With significant licensed spectrum holdings to support gigabit wireless plus fiber projects ready to kick-off construction, we are well-positioned to move quickly to connect the unconnected," Baker added.
Nextlink and Starry were among the biggest RDOF winners in the FCC's $9.2 billion program. In 2020, the agency held a reverse auction for the RDOF, which awarded companies and entities that submitted the lowest bid for covering a particular area. However, winning means that they're on the hook to cover that area with broadband services.
Since the auction, the FCC has been reviewing the winners to determine whether they can meet their RDOF buildout obligations. The agency recently rejected RDOF applications from two other big winners, satellite provider Starlink and fixed wireless operator LTD Broadband, creating concerns that the agency might not approve other fixed wireless deployments.
"We appreciate the FCC's deep analysis of our application and ultimate approval," said Claude Aiken, Nextlink's chief strategy officer. Aiken was previously the chief executive of the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA).
"Chairwoman Rosenworcel has had to make some tough calls on this program, and we appreciate the authorization of Nextlink," he added. "This is a win for consumers nationwide and will get these rural households and businesses connected years in advance of network buildouts under the BEAD program."
For its part, Starry said it will soon begin construction on its RDOF obligations. "We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve more Americans with the essential broadband they need. We thank Chairwoman Rosenworcel and the staff at the FCC for their thorough review of our application and look forward to beginning our deployments and bringing #HappyInterneting to more communities across the country," Starry's Chet Kanojia said in a release.
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