Jeff Lee, LittleT Broadband
I posted an article back in late May about the FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program (RDOF), and the tentative auction wins that could impact our area at some point in the future. Providers that submitted winning bids in the 904 auction were required to file long form applications by the end of January, 2021. Since that time, the FCC has been reviewing the long form applications with the goal of approving them and beginning the subsidy process for the providers that are ready to proceed.
The FCC released two documents late last month which announce preliminary results of their review. I say preliminary, because this review process has not yet been completed for all applications. My interpretation is that the FCC completed review for the smaller and easier applications, and is continuing the review/approval process for the larger and more difficult ones. To date, approval on bids for the auction's the largest winners including Charter Communications has not been announced. In the documents mentioned above, the FCC provided preliminary lists for auction bids that are Ready to Authorize, and Bids in Default.
Ready to Authorize
This document is a list of the first winning bidders whose long form applications have been approved and ready for grant subsidy funding. For these applicants, the FCC will issue a public notice directing the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) to disperse support payments from the Universal Service Fund. The construction time clock for these providers will begin once the public notice has been issued and monthly support payments begin.
No winning bids for North Carolina have been approved as of this date.
Bids in Default
If a winning bidder either fails to submit a long form application within the required timeframe, or notifies the FCC they will not pursue one or more blocks for which they placed bids, the associated bid is considered "in default”. Census blocks for bids in default, will not be served by the associated provider, and these blocks will be returned to the eligible area pool to become available for the next auction. Providers that default on RDOF bids are subject to financial penalties, however the penalties are small compared to the cost of building a network, and are considered by some large companies to simply be a cost of doing business. In other words, these penalties do not prevent a company from bailing on their bid commitment if they decide the business case is not worth the effort.
4 small bids in eastern North Carolina are listed in default. However, no bids in the WNC area have yet been declared in default.
As previously mentioned, these published lists are preliminary. This means that there will be more bids added to the Ready to Authorize and Bids in Default lists. Unfortunately it is too early to tell where Macon and the other WNC counties will fall once the process is complete.