The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has unveiled plans to invest an additional USD2 billion in rural networks over the next decade. As per the decision adopted by the watchdog on 25 May, the FCC has established rules for an auction that will harness market forces to expand broadband in targeted rural areas. The item also seeks comment on a number of issues surrounding the sale process so that it can deliver support to unserved communities as equitably and efficiently as possible.
The auction seeks to expand service to census blocks unserved by broadband delivering speeds of 10Mbps/1Mbps (down/uplink) in 20 states where the so-called ‘price cap’ carriers declined last year’s Connect America Fund (CAF) offer. Also included in the auction are locations across the country with extremely high deployment costs.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler commented: ‘Before the adoption of the modernisation Order in 2011, which established the CAF, the Universal Service Fund (USF) was outdated and inefficient. Today, it is the opposite – a fiscally responsible programme focused on broadband that targets resources where they are most needed, with the flexibility to keep pace with market changes. As a result of these modernisations and reforms, the USF is now a key part of the solution to our nation’s digital divide problem. Last year, the nation’s largest carriers accepted USD9 billion from the new CAF to expand broadband to 7.3 million rural Americans. And this March, the FCC reformed its broadband support for the nation’s smallest carriers, which will provide USD20 billion over the next ten years’.