What is RDOF?
The Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) broadband initiative is the single largest distribution of Universal Service Fund (USF) dollars made available to communications service providers in US history. This truly transformational program is divided into two phases:
- Phase 1: Will provide up to $16.4 billion
- Phase 2: Will provide at least $4.4 billion
RDOF is a once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunity that is projected to dramatically improve quality of life for rural communities.
RDOF will provide $20.4 billion in funding over a ten-year period to support the construction of broadband networks in rural communities across the country.
Eligible areas include those without current (or already funded) access to adequate broadband service, defined by the FCC as 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream (25/3).
Funding for RDOF comes from traditional high-cost Universal Service Funds (USF) and is not dependent on legislative appropriations. The funds are in place, waiting to be awarded.
The FCC will award RDOF funds through a descending clock, reverse auction process. Interested service providers can participate in the auction and bid for a percentage of RDOF funds to serve one or more eligible areas.
Prior to bidding, providers must determine whether they have a sustainable business case with (or without) RDOF funds.
If the business case is solid, providers may submit a “short form” application to the FCC and apply for approval to bid in the RDOF Phase 1 auction. The anticipated short form deadline is July 2020.
The FCC reverse auction rules are complex. To be successful, bidders will need to leverage the knowledge, connections and expertise of seasoned FCC, regulatory and Utility Grade Broadband professionals who can confidently help them navigate each step of the process.
Strategic planning and preparation will help define proposed service areas and identify the most effective broadband network architecture, along with construction and operational costs. But who else will bid on those same areas? And how will bidders navigate each auction round and progress against competitive bids?
You Won RDOF! Now What?
Upon initial notification of award, winning bidders must submit a detailed and comprehensive “long form” application to the FCC. If your long form is accepted by the FCC and you, in turn, accept RDOF support, you effectively promise to deliver broadband and voice services to all funded locations identified in your application. As an RDOF award recipient, you must also secure eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status. For members of RDOF.com, the daunting challenges of network design, project analysis, bid preparation, strategic auction bidding, post-auction tasks and other details will be handled by a team of experienced professionals.