ILSR looks at RDOF one year in – some good, some stuck and some remain to be seen

The Institute for Local Self Reliance has done a nice job outlining the last year of RDOF. Seven of the top ten bidders have yet to actually receive money, which means the FCC is looking closely…

The biggest news so far is that of the top ten winners, seven look to have received no funds at all (see table below or high-resolution version here). That’s $4.1 billion worth of bids for almost 1.9 million locations, and includes LTD Broadband, SpaceX’s Starlink, AMG Technologies (NextLink), Frontier, Resound Networks, Starry (Connect Everyone), and CenturyLink. This is a big deal.

Cooperatives have fared well…

In addition, of the bidders who so far have received the most funds, three are electric cooperative consortiums (see table below or high-resolution here), including the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium, the NRTC Phase I RDOF Consortium, and the RDOF USA Consortium. In fact, electric and telephone cooperatives have done well so far. Familiar faces include Paul Bunyan Communications in northern Minnesota ($16.3M), WK&T in the Kentucky/Tennessee/Illinois area ($2.9M), the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative ($6.5M), Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative ($2.1M), and Altamaha EMC ($8.7M).

Satellite has not fared well…

Importantly, too, while 85 percent of all the winning bids during the RDOF auction were at the gigabit tier, nearly 100 percent of the funds handed out have been for gigabit service. So far, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) ISP Starlink has gotten no funds for its “Above Baseline” bids for more than 640,000 locations for service at 100/20Mbps.

LTD has fared poorly – although no word on what’s happening in Minnesota with LTD…

In looking at Defaults, it’s clear that LTD has some big problems on its hands. As of the middle of December, it had formally defaulted on more than $140 million of its bids (see table here, and map below or high-resolution version here). That includes 100 percent of the census blocks it won in Oklahoma and Kansas, 16 percent of its census blocks in Texas, and 10 percent of its census blocks in California and Iowa. Moreover, in the latest release on January 28th, the FCC announced that LTD defaulted on another 10,500 locations and $5.4 million.

What will ultimately happen with LTD, we still don’t know. In Iowa, the state Utilities Board has denied the ISP the Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) status the ISP needs to get RDOF funds and begin construction.

And we won’t know long term impact until – well long term…

The scandals surrounding RDOF have raised additional concerns about the federal government’s ability to effectively dole out the $42 billion in broadband spending lined up as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While Congress has pushed the FCC to adopt numerous mapping reforms, most won’t arrive until after that money has begun to be awarded.

“We won’t know for years what the final extent of RDOF defaults will be,” Turner said. “The FCC’s pre-auction default policy, while stronger than the one from CAF-II, still lets winning bidders walk away from their deployment commitments years later, for a small fine. That encourages speculation, but of course to an unknown degree.”

This entry was posted in FCC, Funding, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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