On Jan. 30, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve the launch the new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), a $20.4 billion program aimed at accelerating the buildout of fiber optic, high-speed broadband to rural America. The Power & Communication Contractors Association (PCCA) supported the establishment of the RDOF but encourages FCC to deny a proposal by SpaceX (formerly the Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) to allow the company to participate in the auction of Phase I of the RDOF, scheduled for October this year.
In February, SpaceX petitioned FCC to be allowed to bid for RDOF resources, arguing that its “low-Earth-orbiting satellites” are capable of generating low-latency signals. Because PCCA was particularly pleased with incentives provided in the RDOF for carriers to provide higher broadband speeds in order to gain RDOF resources, the association is concerned that allowing satellite companies to qualify as low-latency service providers will undermine the true intent of the RDOF.
“PCCA is encouraged with FCC’s incentivizing commitments to provide higher broadband speeds when bidding on RDOF resources later this year,” PCCA Chairman John Fluharty said. “We know that installation of fiber-optic technology is the most effective way to deploy broadband throughout rural America, and the last thing we need is increased consideration of unproven technology in the RDOF auction.”
While the RDOF establishes an FCC minimum standard of 25/3 Mbps, FCC will prioritize certain bids by automatically choosing those that provide faster service once the Phase I auction reaches the clearing amount of $16 billion. For years, PCCA has encouraged FCC to raise the ante when it comes to target speeds, encouraging adoption of target speeds at 100/100 Mbps.
“PCCA represents the construction entities who build about 85 percent of the broadband infrastructure across the country, especially in rural areas,” Fluharty said. “FCC needs to keep its eye on the prize through a larger focus on higher speeds, and higher consideration of SpaceX technology in the first phase of RDOF bidding would a big step in the wrong direction.”