The Competitive Carriers Association is not thrilled with the FCC’s auction plan for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
At its April 23 meeting, the Commission will vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would seek comment on two different approaches to the 5G Fund: one using currently available data to start an auction in 2021, and a second option which would wait for new mobile broadband coverage data and begin the auction no earlier than 2023.
The inaccuracy of the FCC’s broadband coverage maps concerns CCA President/CEO Steve Berry. “The [Commission] analysis notes that the maps released today may bear little resemblance to the areas actually available for funding in an auction, which is extremely concerning. At a time when everyone is recognizing the importance of bridging the digital divide, the FCC seems intent on moving forward with spending $9 billion without bothering to measure the scope of the problem they are purporting to solve,” said Berry.
He noted: “This approach does nothing to help ensure that unserved and underserved areas have access to robust mobile broadband services. Instead of further analysis on what areas could be eligible, the FCC should focus on implementing the Broadband DATA Act to make data-driven decisions about what areas should receive funding for the next decade of mobile deployment.”
If adopted, the 5G Fund for Rural America would distribute up to $9 billion across the country for 5G connectivity, with $8 billion available in Phase I to target rural areas unlikely to see timely deployment of 5G service absent support or under the T-Mobile transaction commitments.