FCC establishes rules for $2bn rural broadband plan

26 May 2016 | Jason McGee-Abe


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established rules for investing over $2 billion for the Connect America Fund Phase II auction to help expand rural broadband access over the next decade.

FCC logoThe news builds on the substantial progress the FCC has made in recent years connecting rural America to broadband.

“Last year, the nation’s largest carriers – known as “price cap” carriers – accepted $9 billion over six years from Phase II of the Connect America Fund to expand broadband in their rural service areas,” an FCC statement read.

“And in March, the FCC reformed its broadband support for the nation’s smallest carriers, providing $20 billion over the next decade.”

The auction seeks to expand service to census blocks unserved by broadband delivering speeds of 10Mbps downloads/1Mbps uploads in 20 states where the price cap carriers declined last year’s Connect America Fund offer. Also included in the auction are locations across the country with extremely high deployment costs.

The Order portion of the item sets key requirements for successful bids in the auction, including:

• Four technology-neutral service standards, with bidder flexibility to designate either low or high latency for each

- A minimum performance tier that requires bidders to commit to provide broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream (10/1Mbps) and offer at least 150gigabytes (GB) of monthly usage.

- A baseline performance tier that requires bidders to commit to provide at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream (25/3Mbps) and offer a minimum usage allowance of 150GB per month, or that reflects the average usage of a majority of fixed broadband customers nationwide, using Measuring Broadband America data or a similar data source, whichever is higher.

- An above-baseline performance tier that requires bidders commit to provide at least 100Mbps downstream and 20Mbps upstream (100/20Mbps) and offer an unlimited monthly usage allowance.

- A Gigabit performance tier that requires bidders commit to provide at least 1Gbps downstream and 500Mbps upstream and offer an unlimited monthly usage allowance.

• A $215 million budget for support annually
• Network build-out requirements: 40% three years after authorization, 60% after four years, 80% after five years, and 100% by six years
• An application process for auction participants, designed to encourage broad participation from a range of providers
• Reporting requirements that will enable the Commission to monitor the progress of deployment
• A framework for a Remote Areas Fund auction to address those areas that receive no winning bids in this auction