Charter Communications filed a waiver request on May 11 with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) related to its award in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction.
Charter, like all RDOF auction winners, promised to bring broadband to unserved areas. But the company has been auditing the census block grants (CBGs) where it was awarded funds, and it’s found that several of these areas already have broadband or will soon be receiving it.
Bidding under the name of CCO Holdings, Charter was awarded $1.22 billion in the RDOF Phase 1 auction, which concluded in December 2020. Charter won 5,366 CBGs, representing about 1 million homes and small businesses across 24 states for which it’s promised to deliver fiber broadband services.
Similar to something I posted about last week when we dug into Minnesota maps and they showed similar inaccuracies in MN RDOF award areas…
Through RDOF LTD Broadband was deemed eligible to receive $1.32 billion in the US, including $312 million in Minnesota to build FTTH to unserved locations. There is some controversy about that decision – but this post isn’t about LTD, it’s about the maps.
Looking at maps where LTD is eligible to received funding, there are some surprises. For example the Vikings Practice Facility shows up as eligible, as does Henry Sibley High School, lots of locations along the highway and spots in commercial portions of suburban Twin Cities – just feet away from areas that were served. And then there are areas where locations seem to be on or under the highway.
Literally billions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on the RDOF; $16 billion in phase one and $4 billion in phase two. The program duration is 10 years, which means anomalies and discrepancies not caught now make take 10 years to emerge, which may leave some communities unserved for 10 more years. Already some communities in RDOF areas are disqualified for other funding to secure better broadband. There are worse things than changing your mind at the alter – especially when the partnerships impact so many people. Maybe it’s time to reassess what’s on the table.