Led by a wave of approvals for Windstream in several states, the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday said it authorized another $554 million for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).
From a dollar standpoint, it marked the largest wave of RDOF approvals by the FCC so far.
This latest authorization, for 11 service providers covering 180,000 locations in 19 states, comes nearly two weeks after the FCC approved $163.89 million for 42 providers serving 21 states, and authorized $311 million in funding across 36 states in July. That takes total FCC authorizations past $1.02 billion, still well below the $9.2 billion that was originally allocated for phase I of the RDOF auction.
Below is a snapshot of FCC approvals for this round; the full list is located here.
|Aspire Networks (Michigan)
||Callabyte Technology (Missouri)
||DE Fastlink (Mississippi)
||LaGrange County Rural Electric Membership Corp. (Indiana)
|Miami Cass REMC (Indiana)
||MTC Communications (Illinois)
||Pineland Communications (Georgia)
||Pioneer Wireless (Maine)
|Randolph Telephone Telecommunications Inc. (North Carolina)
||Somerset Telephone Co. Inc. (Wisconsin)
||Valor Telecommunications of Texas/ Windstream (New Mexico, Texas)
||Windstream Alabama (Alabama)
|Windstream Arkansas (Arkansas)
||Windstream Georgia (Georgia)
||Windstream Iowa (Iowa)
||Windstream Kentucky East LLC (Kentucky)
|Windstream Lakedale Inc. (Minnesota)
||Windstream Mississippi LLC (Mississippi)
||Windstream Missouri LLC (Missouri)
||Windstream Nebraska Inc. (Nebraska)
|Windstream North Carolina LLC (North Carolina)
||Windstream Western Reserve (Ohio)
Windstream, now the subject of M&A chatter, was a major beneficiary in this round of RDOF authorizations. Windstream had sought a waiver on the June 7 deadline for documentation certifying it as an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) in 11 states.
While Windstream was able to secure the ETC designation in Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio, the FCC ultimately concluded that the company "demonstrated special circumstances that warrant deviation" from the June 7 deadline in several other areas.
Windstream, the FCC noted, made a "good-faith effort" to obtain its ETC designations. The Commission said it found that the public interest is served by moving forward with greenlighting support rather than delaying the provision of services to those areas by defaulting long-form applications from Windstream that the FCC was otherwise ready to authorize.
LTD Broadband and NW Fiber added to the denial list
The FCC said its review of applications of other winning bidders is plowing ahead.
As part of a "clean up process," the FCC noted that it also denied several waiver petitions by companies "that did not diligently pursue their applications." As a result, the Commission denied LTD Broadband's petition seeking a deadline waiver to be designated as an ETC in Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota, and denied NW Fiber's petition seeking waiver of the deadline for submitting a post-auction long form application.
Those denials are in the wake of letters sent by the FCC in July to almost 200 RDOF winners flagging census blocks that already appear to have broadband coverage, and sought those applications to review their bids.
Dozens of winning bidders have already elected not to pursue buildouts in more than 5,000 census blocks. The FCC estimates that those bidders would have otherwise received more than $344 million from the RDOF program.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading