The Federal Communications Commission Tuesday approved procedures for awarding as much as $16 billion over 10 years to expand broadband in the rural U.S.
Companies that meet FCC requirements and seek to deploy the broadband can bid in an auction starting Oct. 29, under the procedures. The agency is accepting applications starting July 1.
“This auction will allow providers to bring millions of Americans across the digital divide,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said before the commission voted to approve the process.
The auction is part of a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund plan that succeeds the FCC’s recently expired Connect America Fund. The new plan more than doubles the minimum speed that was required in the FCC’s Connect America auction in 2018.
The FCC’s three GOP members voted to advance the program, while the agency’s two Democratic commissioners approved in part and dissented in part. Democratic commissioners voiced concerns, such as the FCC lacking reliable maps to know where broadband is needed.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said rural Americans in need of broadband “cannot afford to wait, and neither can we.”
The FCC in a later, second phase of the plan will award the remaining $4.4 billion from the fund, plus any money not distributed in the first phase.