The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans to release a third batch of funding to the winners of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction, increasing the total support approved to date to well over $475M.
Included in the latest wave is $163.9 million for 42 bidders, with the money set to fuel deployments to 65,000 locations across 21 states over the next 10 years. The authorization adds to an initial batch of $311 million in funding for 48 providers announced in July. Consolidated Communications and Cox were among the providers approved for funding in the earlier round. The FCC also approved millions in funding for 14 bidders in September but did not provide a total dollar figure for the support it authorized in that round.
A total of 180 bidders were awarded $9.2 billion in the Phase I auction, meaning the vast majority of support has yet to be released though the winners were announced in December 2020. The hold-up is primarily related to the FCC’s efforts to review the longform applications of winning bidders.
Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement the agency is “continuing careful oversight of this process to ensure that providers meet their obligations to deploy in areas that need it.”
The agency also provided an update on the status of waiver requests from participants seeking to relinquish bids after it sent letters to winners in July flagging census blocks that already appear to have broadband coverage. In response to its warnings, the FCC said 85 winning bidders chose not to pursue buildouts in 5,089 census blocks where they had won support. These bids are considered to be in default, it said.
Those on the latest default list include Cable One, GeoLinks, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, LTD Broadband, Midcontinent Communications (Midco), Resound Networks, Windstream and Wisper.
In July, the FCC issued an initial list of 60 bidding entities which had defaulted on winning bids totaling $78.5 million covering nearly 11,000 census blocks. An agency representative previously told Fierce support will not be authorized for bids in default, with the money instead remaining in the Universal Service Fund for later distribution.
The defaults represent just a fraction of the nearly 787,000 eligible census blocks covered in the Phase I auction.
This story has been updated to include information about the support the FCC authorized in September.