On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced its list of 386 companies that have qualified to bid in the first auction for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).
Beginning Oct. 29, the qualified service providers will compete against each other in Phase 1 of the auction to see who will be able to cash-in on the $20 billion, 10-year RDOF program that was designed to build and connect gigabit broadband speeds, along with enabling lower latency, in unserved rural areas.
“With today’s announcement, we are taking one of the last steps before ringing the opening bell for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, our biggest and boldest step yet to bridge the digital divide for over 10 million unserved consumers across rural America,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The unprecedented interest in this auction is due in large part to key decisions by the FCC, including providing substantial funding and promoting technological neutrality toward potential bidding participants, as well as our staff’s extensive work to spread awareness of the program and ensure the broadest participation in a competitive auction that will deliver real benefits to rural Americans across the country.”
The FCC said the number of qualified bidders represented a more than 75% increase in the number of bidders than were in 2018’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction
The qualified bidders included Altice USA, Cincinnati Bell, Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, Hughes Network Systems, Mediacom, SpaceX, US Cellular, Viasat, Verizon, Windstream and Lumen (formerly CenturyLink.) While "Charter" and "Spectrum" were not on the list of qualified bidders, Charter looks to be taking part under the name of "CCO Holdings."
In early September, Charter was among the 384 companies whose applications were deemed incomplete, but the FCC gave them until Sept. 23 to fix their applications.
Last week the FCC released a state-by-state list of areas eligible for bidding in the Phase I auction. Phase 1 will focus on rural areas that don't have broadband while Phase 2 will focus on areas with partial service.
Also in September, Democrats criticized Pai for the FCC’s lack of action on broadband mapping, but Pail blamed Congress for a lack of funding, according to a story by Broadband Breakfast. In August, the FCC approved its new Digital Opportunity Data Collection plan to improve data collection and mapping for rural broadband to help close the digital divide.