On June 10, 2019, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized $166.8 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 60,850 unserved rural homes and businesses in 22 states. This represented the second wave of support from last year’s successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers began receiving funding that same month.
According to the USDA’s report, A Case for Rural Broadband, if access to broadband and adoption of digital agricultural technologies matched producer demand, U.S. agriculture would realize economic benefits amounting to nearly 18% of total U.S. market production, or $64.5 billion annually, based on 2017 levels.
The USDA report—which was published by the American Broadband Initiative—analyzed the possible economic benefits of bringing e-connectivity to the heartland and what must be done to make it reality.
In total, the auction last fall allocated $1.488 billion in support to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses over the next 10 years. The FCC authorized the first wave of funding in May, providing $111.6 million in funding over the next decade to expand service to 37,148 unserved homes and businesses in 12 states.
To date, the first two rounds of authorizations are providing $278.4 million over the next decade to expand service to 97,998 new locations. Over the coming months, the FCC will be authorizing additional funding as it approves the final applications of the winning bidders from the auction.
“I’m pleased to announce that the second round of funding starts now for buildout of highspeed Internet service to 60,850 rural homes and businesses, which will bring them to the right side of the digital divide and give them access to the 21st-century opportunities that broadband offers,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“Providers will be deploying gigabit-speed connections to the majority of locations for which funding is being authorized today, while nearly 8,000 homes and small businesses on Tribal lands will be getting fixed broadband service for the first time,” he added.
The funding applications approved by the Commission on June 10 include the following four examples:
- Central Virginia Services, an electric coop, is receiving $28.6 million to deploy gigabit connections to nearly 11,000 locations in rural Virginia;
- NTUA Wireless is receiving $28.4 million to serve over 7,000 homes and small businesses in Tribal areas of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, while SW DinehNet will serve 869 Tribal locations in New Mexico;
- Co-Mo Comm, an electric coop, is receiving nearly $22 million to deploy gigabit connections to over 8,350 rural locations in Missouri; and
- Commnet of Nevada is receiving $23.6 million to provide service to over 12,800 homes and businesses in 11 counties in rural Nevada.
Providers must build out to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas won in a state within three years. Buildout must increase by 20% in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year.
The Connect America Fund Phase II auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in rural America. In addition to the funding that will be made available through this auction, the Commission recently provided 186 companies in 43 states $65.7 million in additional annual funding to upgrade broadband speeds in rural communities, and offered incentives for over 500 rural carriers to provide faster broadband to over 1 million rural homes and businesses.
Chairman Pai also announced his intention to create the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which will provide $20.4 billion over the next decade to connect approximately four million rural homes and businesses to high-speed broadband, representing the FCC’s single biggest step yet to close the digital divide.
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