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FCC adds $640m to rural broadband funding across US

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The US telecoms regulator is ready to authorise more than US$640 million of aid to rural broadband projects in 26 states

The US telecoms regulator is ready to authorise more than US$640 million of aid to rural broadband projects in 26 states.

But it is getting tougher with its scrutiny of how bidders are spending the government money. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that the latest programmes will take support through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to $4.7 billion in 47 states.

RDOF will fund nearly 300 carriers to bring broadband to almost 2.7 million locations, said the FCC.

FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said: “Today’s funding will help connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, broadband internet service.”

She said the FCC will be careful to ensure the money is spent well, via a Rural Broadband Accountability Plan (RBAP) that she set up earlier this year.

“As we approve this funding, we remain committed to making sure that this programme serves areas that truly need broadband and funds carriers that can do the job, and our new Rural Broadband Accountability Plan will ensure just that.”

Support is allocated by census areas, and some alleged two years ago, when the RDOF was set up, that claims were being made for undeveloped plots of land, or for plots that were alongside areas that were already well served with broadband.

The FCC said it has already questioned 197 applicants for support “where there was evidence of existing service or questions of waste”.

As a result of the extra scrutiny, said the regulator, “bidders have already chosen not to pursue support in approximately 5,000 census blocks in response to the Commission’s letters”.

And some winning bidders had “not made appropriate efforts to secure state approvals or prosecute their applications”.

The FCC said that “these bidders would have otherwise received approximately $350 million”.

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