It is certain that at least some of the award winners from last year’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I reverse auction have already defaulted on their obligations under the RDOF rules. Yesterday, NRTC joined with NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association, NRECA and other rural groups to ask the FCC to share a list of those that have defaulted so far.
“Release of this information will enhance the transparency and accountability of the RDOF long-form application process consistent with the request made by 160 members of Congress and numerous rural broadband industry stakeholders,” the group said in a letter to the FCC. “Timely, thorough, and transparent review of these applications is increasingly important, as various other federal, state and local funding programs are currently being launched or considered.”
Without an accounting of the Census Block Group (CBG) areas that can no longer expect Phase I funding, it could be more difficult to raise support through other programs, the group said. A list would help “to ensure that rural households, farms, and businesses are not left stranded without broadband services due to RDOF bidders defaulting on locations.”
Late last year, the FCC announced the “winners” of $9.2 billion in awards for broadband construction after Phase I. All involved at the time understood that winning bidders were actually “provisional applicants” that still faced a rigorous RDOF long-form process before receiving support. At lease some of those provisional applicants failed to submit long forms by a January 2021 deadline.
“Defaults or apparent defaults should be listed whether the default occurred due to failure to timely submit necessary information or waiver requests by the long-form application deadlines, or by notification of the intent to default provided to the Commission by winning bidders,” the letter said.
The letter asks for bidders that are “already in default.” It is possible that the list of RDOF defaults could increase as the Commission reviews other long-form applications. NRTC, NTCA, NRECA and other organizations have asked for close scrutiny of some applicants that do not seem to meet the technical and financial qualifications to establish promised broadband performance.
Aaron Bennett, VP, Broadband Development, signed the letter on NRTC’s behalf. Along with NTCA and NRECA, representatives from the Ensuring RDOF Integrity Coalition and Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association also signed.
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