Holding bidders accountable when it comes to bridging the digital divide
We have heard so much about rural broadband during the pandemic. The feds just dropped more than $9 billion dollars into a program to reach unserved areas, but some broadband providers are concerned about the kinds of bids the FCC is awarding.
More broadband funding is headed to rural America, but some of the winning bids feature newer satellite and fixed wireless gigabit solutions that have not been proven viable in rural areas. Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, says that the funding is meant to be used to close the digital divide.
“We’re using the public’s money in the RDOF auction and its designed to be a deployment program for proven technologies, not a research and development experiment for technology that may or may not be capable of connecting millions of rural Americans with real broadband,” Matheson states.
He says that stakes are high because if a census block is awarded an RDOF bid, it locks that area out of any other federal funding for the next ten years.
“If a bidder doesn’t live up to its promises, the people living in that area are locked into a bad situation for the next decade and that is simply unacceptable,” he states. “Rural America has been left behind so many times in the past on broadband deployment lets not lock them into another ten years of being on the outside looking in.”
The group is calling for the FCC to take a closer look at any of the applications proposing gigabit tier fixed wireless solutions, or hybrid fixed wireless solutions.
“We want them to actively and aggressively and thoughtfully vet these applications, looking at the longforms which are in their process to do. We are asking them to look at the capabilities of the technology of each bidder and the economic viability of each bidder, and we want to hold the bidder accountable of each of these processes, and we want to make sure they do that in a transparent way,” he explains.
He goes on to say that a bipartisan group of 160 lawmakers sent a letter to the FCC with the same request to thoroughly vet provider bids.