Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has presented his colleagues with the final rules paving the way for the new USD20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. These rules will be voted on by the FCC at its Open Meeting on 30 January. Announcing the move, Mr Pai commented: ‘While we’ve made substantial progress in expanding broadband deployment over the last three years, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund would be the biggest step the FCC has taken to date to close the digital divide.’
The new fund will seek to allocate USD20.4 billion through a reverse-auction format to connect millions of rural homes and small businesses that currently lack access to 25Mbps/3Mbps broadband services. The first phase of funding will see the FCC provide USD16 billion to areas that are wholly unserved by a 25Mbps/3Mbps service, while the second phase will rely on the watchdog’s new granular broadband mapping approach – the Digital Opportunity Data Collection – which will target unserved households in areas that are only partially served by broadband.