- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted on the final elements of the bidding structure for its nearly $2 billion Connect America Fund Phase II auction, according to Fierce Telecom and others. The program goal is to provide funding over 10 years to expand broadband infrastructure to underserved rural areas throughout the country.
- Service providers have until March 30 to apply to participate in the auction, which will begin on July 24.
- The FCC also approved changes to allow smaller, independent service providers a better chance to compete with large service providers.
The FCC indicates that nearly 1 million homes and businesses throughout the country are in rural areas that are unserved by broadband providers. It also notes that nearly 97% of residents in urban areas have access to high-speed internet, but only 65% of those in rural areas have access to the same benefits. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has repeatedly stated that one of his top priorities is closing the digital divide and providing all Americans with access to high-speed internet service.
The fund was proposed back in 2013 but has encountered delays in deployment. The FCC released a map of the finalized areas eligible for auction participation.
This program allows for better equity in digital communications, which is a problem often faced in an increasingly digital society. It benefits not only residents, but also small cities and towns that might face barriers to adding smart technologies due to a lack of sufficient connectivity options.
This could also pave the way for greater, more equitable distribution of 5G service throughout the country, even though that build-out is still in its infancy and hasn't officially launched even in dense urban areas.