Rural Broadband Program Woes Hindering Service Deployment

This post was originally published on Network Computing

Network planners and business expanders hoped the $20 billion FCC- administered RDOF would help close the digital divide. Below is a list of issues for these teams to consider as the program has underwhelmed.

The two-phase reverse auction effort launched in 2020 with a charter to deliver broadband to un- and under-served rural locations that could join the national economy as home workers, branch offices, and new business sites.

Now, nearly one-third of the money awarded through RDOF Phase 1 ($9.2 billion) has been defaulted on, leaving those in many census blocks with no definite help in sight. The FCC would not say when Phase 2 will begin.

The ISPs continue to default, with many thinking they can simply grab funds from the BEAD program, but that is unlikely as most states have already chosen providers that will deliver broadband, and defaulters have been assessed fines.

Enterprise impact

“For enterprises looking to expand service in areas designated as unserved or underserved, this all means they won’t be getting appropriate broadband service in a reasonable amount of time,” explained Jeff Heynen, Director, Broadband Access and Home Networking for Dell’Oro Group, a telecom market research and consulting firm. “They have to continue to look for contingencies.”

What is

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