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FCC Announces $100 million for Rural Broadband Experiment Program

posted Jul 31, 2014, 10:10 AM by Megan Chadwick Gernert - OIT   [ updated Jul 31, 2014, 10:11 AM ]

On July 14th The FCC issued a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 14-98) formally implementing the Rural Broadband Experiment Program proposed in January and the source of the “Letters of Interest” that many of you submitted.  The complete order is available at:  http://www.fcc.gov/document/rural-broadband-experiments-order

Here are some of the program highlights:

  • Overall Budget: $100 Million
    • $75 Million designated for projects that will guarantee at least 25 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up
    • $15 Million designated for projects that will guarantee at least 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up
    • $10 Million designated for projects in “Extremely High Cost Areas” that will guarantee at least 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up
  • All projects must offer service at rates that is comparable to metropolitan areas.
  • Applications are due 90 days from the release of the order
    • The order estimates that successful applicants will receive notice of award by the end of this year.
  • The areas eligible for support are those that fall between above the “High Cost” or “Extremely High Cost” designation based on the Connect America Fund Phase II Model that do not currently have service of at least 3 Mbps down and 768 Kbps up
  • The funding is based on a 10 year ongoing support model that exists for the larger CAF II program.  For example, the standard recipient will receive a set amount, per month for 120 months.  
    • Each eligible census block/tract will have a specific yearly amount designated for support.  To gauge the overall potential for an area simply take the yearly number and multiply by 10.
    • There is the potential to receive 30% of the award up front with the remainder spread over the 10 year support period
    • The only metric that will be used to make awards will be the average cost per location served.  The lowest cost proposal wins. 
  • Recipients must offer a basic voice service over the broadband connection
  • The program is technology neutral and specifically mentions fixed-point wireless and TV White Space technologies
  • Recipients will need to gain ETC status from the state PUC after the award has been accepted
  • There will be build-out milestones tied to the award

Overall we believe there are several eligible areas within the state that have great potential based on what we know is happening in those regions.  As always, there are some areas within the state that do not appear as eligible that we believe should be. We will be contacting the FCC to inquire about a mechanism to challenge their data but based on the fact that this program is part of the larger Connect America Fund we believe the odds are against such challenges.  We will provide a detailed map of eligible areas in the coming weeks and we will work closely with entities interested in applying in order to map the specific eligible census tracts and blocks in greater detail.

OIT held a conference call on July 22nd to review the order with those that are interested in the program and will continue to offer to assist those who wish to pursue this opportunity through the grant process.  The entities that will ultimately apply for funds must lead the way and drive the application process but OIT will be available to coordinate, facilitate, review documents, etc.  If you have specific questions on the program or wish to have OIT provide additional explanation please contact Brian Shepherd or Megan Chadwick

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