FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has formed the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force to implement the upcoming the Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF-II) and Mobility Fund II (MF-II) auctions.
CAF-II will offer nearly $2 billion to bidders to connect those in unserved and underserved locations over the next 10 years, while the MF-II auction will offer over $4.5 billion to expand 4G LTE coverage across rural areas and tribal lands.
Pai said that the auctions will help fulfill his agenda to expand broadband access, particularly in areas that have little, if no, service options.
“Commencing these auctions as soon as possible is a top priority for the Commission as we seek to close the digital divide,” Pai said in a statement. “As with other proceedings, we believe we must engage with the public and be as transparent as possible throughout the duration of these two auctions, including identifying potential problems early on and fixing them ahead of time.”
Pai tapped Chelsea Fallon as Director of the Task Force, with Michael Janson and Kirk Burgee as Deputy Directors. Thom Parisi will serve as the Chief of Staff of the Task Force.
Fallon currently serves as deputy chief of the industry analysis and technology division for the Wireline Competition Bureau and Parisi serves as a legal advisor for that bureau. Janson and Burgee are associate bureau chiefs there, and Burgee also works as chief of staff.
Senior leaders from across the FCC will also serve on the Task Force, including representatives from the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the Wireline Competition Bureau, the Office of Strategic Policy and Analysis, the Office of the Managing Director and the Office of General Counsel.
In 2015, the FCC approved a reverse auction that will provide an additional $2 billion in funds to rural broadband providers via the regulator's CAF II program in an effort to accelerate growth.
A number of large wireline operators including AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier and Windstream accepted $9 billion over six years from Phase II of the Connect America Fund to expand broadband in their rural service areas. Later, in March 2016, the FCC reformed its broadband support for the nation's smallest carriers, providing $20 billion over the next decade.