RDOF areas that have not received RDOF funding authorization can apply for BEAD

Telecompetitor has an update on the situation with $9.2 billion of RDOF money doled out by the NTIA based on results of a reverse auction. The largest winning bidder was LTD Broadband, which means they won the exclusive opportunity to apply for funding in certain areas – many of them in Minnesota. It’s a situation we’ve been following in Minnesota, especially since it has led the Minnesota PUC (Public Utilities Commission) to delve into the working of LTD Broadband.

The good news they report is that RDOF areas that have not received RDOF funding authorization can apply for BEAD. One thorn in the side of Minnesota communities in LTD-RDOF areas is that being in the limbo of possibly receiving funds left they out of a state Border to Border funding round.

Here are more details from Telecompetitor

Winning bidders were required to submit long-form applications and obtain eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status if they didn’t already have it. A company is put on an RDOF ready-to-authorize list when the FCC has reviewed and approved its long-form application. The company then has about two weeks to obtain a letter of credit and a bankruptcy opinion letter, which the FCC reviews and approves prior to putting the company on a list of authorized bidders.

Three-quarters of the funding tentatively won in the auction is slated to go to just 10 companies. Among the top winning bidders, most of the companies planning to deploy fiber broadband have had all or most of their funding released. Several companies planning to use alternate technologies – including gigabit fixed wireless and low earth orbit satellites – have not yet appeared on a ready-to-authorize list. Gigabit fixed wireless has received criticism as a relatively unproven technology and LEO satellites have been criticized because they also are relatively unproven and have a limited lifespan.

LTD Broadband, which was the largest winning bidder and which plans to use fiber broadband for its deployments, also has not yet appeared on an RDOF ready-to-authorize list. The company has received considerable criticism from people who question whether it has the resources to complete the bids for which it won funding.

A lot has changed on the rural broadband front since the RDOF auction was completed in late 2020. Since then, legislators have made an unprecedented amount of funding available for rural broadband. The $9.2 billion tentatively awarded in the auction is only a fraction of the $42.5 billion that will be awarded through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program created in the infrastructure act and that will be administered by NTIA.

Rules for that program were recently released and they reveal lessons learned from the RDOF auction. Rather than using a reverse auction to award funding, the BEAD program will use a merit system that prioritizes fiber broadband.

Unserved locations that are supposed to receive broadband through the RDOF program are not eligible for BEAD or other funding programs, but just this week, we got some additional clarification about that. Alan Davidson, head of NTIA, told attendees at an industry conference this week that if an area has yet to receive RDOF funding authorization, that area should be eligible for BEAD grants, and it would then be up to the FCC to “deconflict” any potential overlap.


This entry was posted in Funding, MN, 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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