As part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) efforts to begin the movement towards all IP-based networks (Docket WC10-90) they recently released order FCC-14-5A1. The order addressed multiple issues regarding the transition from the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to an IP-Network but one element of the order that is of particular interest for broadband in Colorado was the proposed establishment of a fund to invest in rural broadband experiments that seek to achieve universal broadband access in rural areas of the county. The “Rural Broadband Experiment” program is to be funded with remaining Connect America Fund Phase 1 moneys that were not accepted by the incumbent providers. In the order, the FCC discusses a competitive grant program that takes applications from public, private or quasi-governmental entities for specific projects that seek to establish universal broadband access in specific geographic areas. These projects, which must offer basic voice services are envisioned to be pilot projects as the FCC wrestles with the challenges in moving towards and all IP network.
In order to establish such a program the FCC requested that interested parties submit “letters of interest” from entities that would seek funds from the program. The primary purpose of these letters was to gauge potential interest in the program and establish a budget based on the interest. Through a great example of collaboration between public and private, state and local resources we are pleased to announce that nearly 40 letters of interest were submitted by entities from across the state. We are also excited that an overwhelming number of these letters were based on public-partnerships. You can view the letters of interest from Colorado below (please let us know if we missed any letters!). You can also view the letters of interest from across the nation on the FCC website.
Over the next few months the FCC will review these letters, as well as general comments and formalize the program specifics. It is anticipated that a formal application process will take place this year with the possibility of awards being announced in 2014. While this program will be extremely competitive it could be a great opportunity for communities who are in need of broadband access.
OIT will continue to monitor this program and communicate updates and next steps to the entire Colorado broadband community.