Bidding commenced today in the first phase of the FCC's 10-year, $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program. A total of 386 qualified providers are vying for $16 billion in Universal Service Fund (USF) dollars in the Phase I reverse auction, which will allocate subsidies to those bidders committing to construct broadband network infrastructure at the lowest cost.
Phase I targets those census blocks where fixed voice and Internet access speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps are not offered to even a single location. It also prioritizes facilities that would deliver higher speeds (up to 1 Gbps) through a bid-weighting process.
RDOF Phase I promises to make broadband available to as many as 10 million people currently unserved. As FCC Chairman Ajit Pai emphasized, "[i]t represents a major investment in rural America that will benefit the entire country as we connect consumers who are currently missing out on digital opportunity, from the Pacific Coast to Appalachia and from the Great Plains to the Gulf Coast."