Redzone flags $500,000 RDOF funding mix up

close-up of money
Redzone said it was a victim of a mapping error and asked the FCC to let it off the hook for build commitments in its home state of Maine. (Pepi Stojanovski / Unsplash)

Maine-based fixed wireless access (FWA) provider Redzone Wireless followed Charter Communications in seeking a waiver from commitments made in the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) recent Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction on the grounds its promised deployments would be redundant.

In December 2020, Redzone won $507,752 in RDOF support to cover 755 locations in its home state with broadband service. However, the company said in a filing with the FCC it wants to relinquish the funds after discovering its service would be in competition with “an existing municipally-funded symmetric gigabit network.”

Redzone said the census blocks it won at auction “never should have been” considered eligible to receive RDOF funding but were included in the proceeding due to the local provider’s failure to report its gigabit coverage. It added it discovered the areas were already covered during the auction and “immediately stopped bidding” on those blocks, but noted a bid entered before it made the finding ended up winning.

It asked the FCC to release it from its RDOF coverage commitments, arguing that accepting the money would “be a waste of taxpayer contributions and contravene Commission objectives designed to steer finite support to areas that actually lack service.”

RELATED: Charter requests limited RDOF waiver after finding lots of inaccuracies

The company is the latest to seek an RDOF waiver due to faulty coverage mapping data. Charter Communications recently asked to be let off the hook for certain obligations in Massachusetts, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin, after determining areas for which it received funding were already served with broadband. Like Redzone, it said the blocks in question “should not have been included in the RDOF auction.”

Charter won a total of $1.22 billion in support in the RDOF auction, but its requested changes would eat into that sum. In Massachusetts alone, Charter said the requested changes to its RDOF commitments would reduce its state funding total from nearly $1.6 million to $304,234.

RELATED: CCA warns up to $1B in RDOF funds could be wasted

Earlier this month, regional operator group the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) said it found widespread errors in the maps used to allocate RDOF funds and warned these could lead to the FCC “improperly” allocating as much as $1 billion if left uncorrected.

Last week, several digital rights advocacy groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press and Public Knowledge, joined CCA in urging the FCC to fix the mapping errors.

“The FCC has the authority to require awardees to update their Commission filings with accurate broadband access data, and with the promise of billions of dollars of federal subsidies it is appropriate that awardees assist the Commission in that effort,” they wrote.