Connectivity is critical in today’s rapidly expanding remote world. Finding new ways to solve the problem of equitable access to reliable and functional broadband has become more crucial than ever. That’s where the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) comes in.
RDOF is a once-in-a-lifetime initiative that will improve the lives of thousands of rural communities. Its goal is to support the commercial construction of broadband infrastructure with $20.4B of new subsidies over the next ten years. Its impact on our industry, the public and rural electric co-ops across the country will be felt for generations to come.
Network operators have entered a bidding war to gain funding for their chance to supply underserved areas near them with the best network services available. But they must have a well-thought-out plan that meets industry standards to be considered for funding.
How Did Rural Electric Cooperatives Gain Funding?
To understand the funding process, you need to understand each of the RDOF’s phases and auctions.
RDOF Phase 1: This phase’s auction ended on November 25 and awarded $9.2 billion in support to 180 winning bidders, including incumbent telephone companies, cable operators, electric cooperatives, satellite operators and fixed wireless providers.
RDOF Phase 2: This phase’s auction has also ended and has awarded up to another $11.2 billion in support to bring broadband and voice to the remaining unserved areas not reached through RDOF Phase I.
This auction process works in reverse: one buyer (in this case, the federal government) is attempting to drive down the price of distributing broadband infrastructure to rural Americans. To accomplish this, bidding will be opened to multiple sellers competing against one another to provide the most value.
Carriers selected to receive RDOF funding must also complete various filing and certification requirements each year.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of RDOF Awards?
RDOF funding is perfect for making sure fiber optic network deployment happens. Carriers who receive awards must complete deployment by the end of the eighth year to all locations eligible for support and must meet interim deployment milestones along the way. Funding parameters like these will make sure each auction winner follows through on their promises.
On the other hand, there may be some setbacks when it comes to RDOF funds. According to the Competitive Carriers Association, up to $1 billion in RDOF funds could be wasted. This is due to sending money from the Phase I auction to locations where it isn’t needed due to faulty coverage maps. Some of the much-needed funds will be spent in wealthy areas instead of the rural communities it intended to serve.
Luckily, the second auction in Phase II will use mapping data collected as part of the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection initiative to determine eligibility — maps that will hopefully be far more accurate.
How Can We Ultimately Bridge The Digital Divide?
It’s about time we started bridging the digital divide and efficiently deploy broadband networks in hard-to-reach rural areas. That’s where UCL Swift’s All-In-One fiber splicing solutions can help.
Advanced fiber splicing and connecting products can help you reach your RDOF funding parameters faster and more efficiently. The thermal stripper in the All-In-One system prevents cracks on the fiber that are usually caused by manual strippers, among many other technical improvements.
Also, our new Swift Test Kit reports could be used to validate your co-op’s functionality to help complete your RDOF filing and certification requirements.
RDOF represents one of the most ambitious funding initiatives that the FCC has ever undertaken. But fortunately, the efficiency of today’s tools speeds up fiber installs and broadband deployment, allowing fewer people to get more done — and to get more done at the highest level of success. That’s more than crucial for those who have received RDOF funding.