Vol. 17, No. 29
July 26, 2021
FCC Announces $311 Million for Broadband, Acts to Clean Up RDOF
The FCC today took its first steps to move forward with funding new broadband deployments across the country through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The FCC announced that it is ready to authorize over $311 million in broadband funding across 36 states through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

“This is a significant down payment on broadband deployment,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.“Today’s announcement means that help is on the way for hundreds of thousands of Americans without access to broadband.”

This is the first funding to be approved through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. As a result of today’s announcement, 48 broadband providers will bring 1 Gbps broadband speeds to nearly 200,000 homes and businesses over the next 10 years. At the same time, the FCC also took steps to clean up the RDOF program. In light of complaints that the program was poised to fund broadband to parking lots and well-served urban areas, the FCC sent letters to 197 winning bidders. The letters offer providers an opportunity to withdraw their funding requests from those places already with service or where significant questions of waste have been raised. Next, the FCC made clear that it will not tolerate any provider participating in the program that is not serious about providing broadband service or has not made appropriate efforts to secure state approvals.
Bill to Explore Collecting USF Contributions from Big Tech
Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), introduced the Funding Affordable Internet with Reliable (FAIR) Contributions Act. The legislation would direct the FCC to conduct a study into the feasibility of collecting Universal Service Fund (USF) contributions from internet edge providers, such as YouTube, Netflix and Google.

The FAIR Contributions Act would direct the FCC to issue a Notice of Inquiry seeking public comment on the feasibility of collecting USF contributions from internet edge providers, and issue a final report on the matter within 180 days. Additionally, it would require the FCC to consider:
  • Possible sources of big tech revenue, such as digital advertising and user fees
  • The fairness of the current system and a system under which contributions could be assessed on big tech firms
  • The feasibility of assessing contributions on such a broad category of firms that do not currently register with the FCC
  • The effects such a change would have on Tribal, low-income, and elderly consumers
  • The changes to current law necessary to implement this system
NARUC Approves Broadband, Emergency Benefit Resolutions
Last week at its Summer Policy Summit, NARUC approved three resolutions:
  • Recommendations from its Broadband Expansion Task Force on broadband mapping, enhancing broadband program coordination and broadband adoption, among other things
  • A call for improvement to the EBB program, and requested the FCC and USAC work quickly and collaboratively with service providers and other stakeholders to fix the National Verifier process for EBB enrollments.
  • Support for a petition filed by the state of California seeking reconsideration of an order relating to rules on disaster reporting.
NTIA Provides Updates to Broadband Infrastructure Programs
NTIA staff will host two additional Broadband Infrastructure Program webinars, which build upon the previous month’s presentations to help prospective applicants further understand the grant programs and assist applicants to prepare high-quality grant applications:
  • Session 5a – Wednesday, August 4, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Session 5b – Thursday, August 5, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. ET

The NTIA also has recently published its third set of FAQs regarding the Broadband Infrastructure Program. This document offers some of the most commonly asked questions from prospective applicants regarding eligibility, other broadband funding programs and eligible service areas, application requirements/process, and post-award requirements. Subsequent FAQ sets will be published periodically throughout the application window.

Additional reminders:
  • Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. EDT on August 17, 2021
  • All applicants must have current registrations in the System for Award Management (SAM.gov) and Grants.gov, keeping in mind the SAM.gov registration process typically takes 3-5 business days, but could take more than 3 weeks.
  • All applications must be submitted electronically via www.Grants.gov. Complete applications or portions of applications submitted by mail, email, or FAX will not be accepted.
Reps. Lead Majority of House Democratic Caucus Urging
President Biden to Permanently Close the Digital Divide
Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) led a majority of the House Democratic Caucus in sending a letter that urges President Biden to permanently close the digital divide for all Americans. 120 members of the House Democratic Caucus signed the letter thanking President Biden for pursuing a bipartisan infrastructure package and expressing their support for targeting federal funds to the hardest to reach areas and providing a permanent, federally funded broadband benefit program for financially vulnerable families.
Bicameral Bill on Emergency Connectivity Fund Introduced
Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y), along with 15 additional senators and 25 house members, introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed Act to build on the Emergency Connectivity Fund. The bill would provide schools and libraries with $40 billion over five years to continue to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and internet-enabled devices to students, staff and library patrons, and will continue efforts to close the homework gap and support distance learning after the pandemic.