LTD Broadband, Charter, SpaceX, Windstream, Frontier, Starry and CenturyLink are among the big winners of the FCC's recent Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction.
The top 10 RDOF winners are listed below and Light Reading has provided the identity of the company involved and the technology or technologies that those firms said they will use to provide Internet services. The rest of the RDOF winners list is available on page 2 of this article.
Table 1: The RDOF Winners List (1-10)
|Company||Bidding entity||Amount||Locations||Number of states||Technology|
|LTD Broadband||LTD Broadband LLC||$1,320,920,718.60||528,088||15||fiber and fixed wireless|
|Charter||CCO Holdings, LLC (Charter Communications)||$1,222,613,870.10||1,057,695||24||fiber and cable|
|Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium||Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium||$1,104,395,953.00||618,476||22||fiber|
|SpaceX||Space Exploration Technologies Corp.||$885,509,638.40||642,925||35||LEO satellites|
|Windstream||Windstream Services LLC, Debtor-In-Possession||$522,888,779.80||192,567||18||asymmetric xDSL, fiber and fixed wireless|
|Nextlink||AMG Technology Investment Group LLC||$429,228,072.90||206,136||12||fixed wireless|
|Frontier||Frontier Communications Corporation, DIP||$370,900,832.80||127,188||8||fiber and fixed wireless|
|Resound Networks||Resound Networks, LLC||$310,681,608.90||219,239||7||fiber and fixed wireless|
|Starry||Connect Everyone LLC||$268,851,315.90||108,506||9||fiber and fixed wireless|
|CenturyLink||CenturyLink, Inc.||$262,367,614.20||77,257||20||asymmetric xDSL and fiber|
The auction ended last week, and the FCC released the identity of the winners Monday. The agency said the auction ended at $9.2 billion, money that will go toward providing over 5.2 million unserved homes and businesses around the country with Internet connections.
The FCC noted that cable operators, electric cooperatives, incumbent telephone companies, satellite companies and fixed wireless providers were among the winners. Indeed, companies ranging from Verizon to Rise Broadband registered to participate in the event.
The FCC's RDOF program is a reverse auction where companies and entities that submit the lowest bid for covering a particular area win – however, then they're on the hook to cover that area with broadband services. Winning bidders will receive 10 years of subsidy payments from the FCC, disbursed in equal monthly installments, and have six years to deploy broadband to winning locations.
Interestingly, the biggest winners of the RDOF auction include a wide range of companies – from massive, incumbent network operators to tiny startups – that are planning to use all sorts of technologies to deliver Internet services to rural areas.
For example, LTD Broadband won the biggest amount of money from the RDOF, collecting a total of around $1.3 billion to cover customers across 13 states. The company said it plans to do so with a mixture of fiber and fixed wireless services. According to BroadbandNow, LTD currently offers fixed wireless Internet services to around 1.6 million people across states including Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.
Nextlink and Resound Networks are similar fixed wireless providers that also walked away with massive winnings from the RDOF. Meantime, Windstream, Charter and CenturyLink are massive, established telecom companies that also won significant amounts of RDOF money.
But there are two major surprises among the top RDOF winners: SpaceX and Starry. Starlink is the low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite Internet service from Elon Musk's SpaceX, and the FCC begrudgingly allowed the company to participate in the RDOF in part because it is only now beginning to provide commercial Internet services.
And Starry is another startup from Chet Kanojia – the entrepreneur who founded Aereo, a failed attempt to stream TV stations online – that first launched high-speed, fixed wireless services targeting dense, urban areas in 2017. Last year the company dramatically scaled back its network buildout timeline. Now, though, thanks to the $269 million it will receive through the RDOF, Starry appears to be significantly modifying its strategy to include rural areas alongside urban areas.
"Access to reliable, high-quality broadband connectivity should be a reality for every American, no matter where you live and we look forward to leveraging our technology and expertise to deliver 'happy interneting' to more communities across the United States," the company said in response to questions from Light Reading on the RDOF. The company declined to provide any further details on its RDOF plans, citing the FCC's "quiet period" rules that prevent RDOF participants from speaking publicly about the auction.
Next page: The rest of the RDOF winners list