Last year, the top telcos in the nation signed on to accept more than $9 billion in funding over six years from the FCC to support rural broadband deployments. But the results of that effort still left too many regions underserved. So this year, the FCC is doling out an additional $2 billion as part of the Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II initiative to expand rural broadband access.
In a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) open meeting today, the regulatory body voted on new rules for its upcoming auction of CAF II funding. While the Commission opened its wallet to price-cap carriers last year, i.e., those carriers whose rates are capped by the government, the new FCC auction will accept competitive bids from a broader set of candidates, including smaller wireline telcos, wireless providers, cable operators and electric utilities.
The FCC has also outlined the standards for what it has decided will constitute a competitive bid. According to a press release distributed on today's ruling, there are multiple tiers of service that could qualify for funding. These include offerings that promise:
- 10 megabits per second downstream and 1 megabit per second upstream with a minimum data allotment of 150 gigabytes per month
- 25 Mbits/s downstream and 3 Mbits/s upstream with a minimum 150 GB monthly allowance
- 100 Mbits/s downstream, 20 Mbits/s upstream with unlimited data usage
- 1 Gbit/s downstream, 500 Mbits/s upstream with unlimited data usage
Per the FCC, bids with these different service tiers will be weighted according to a set of defined rules in an attempt to balance cost with performance. However, the Commission did not decide on those rules today, and instead issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on how best to proceed.
All three Democratic Commissioners approved today's ruling. Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai approved in part and concurred in part. Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly approved in part and dissented in part.
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— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading