FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction results announced

Mississippi will be receiving $495.7 million in federal funds to expand broadband access to underserved rural areas and SpaceX’s Starlink service will be one of those providers.

Internet providers bringing service to rural Mississippi will receive funds from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which awards funds to internet service providers through an auction process.


ISPs serving Mississippi will receive more funds than all but one state, California. There will be 218,990 locations served by the 12 auction winners.


Known as the “Phase I auction” of the FCC’s $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunities Fund, the subsidies are designed to be an incentive for broadband providers to bring service to the “unserved” and hard-to-reach areas of the United States.


The subsidies will “be distributed over the next 10 years,” the FCC said, in the form of “equal monthly payments” – so long as each provider “meets all deployment milestones” for bringing broadband service to the areas bid and won.

“Funds will be distributed when applicants complete the long form application process and are authorized to receive support,” FCC spokesperson Anne Veigle said in a statement.


The FCC was expected to award $16 billion in the first auction, but ended up doling out $9.2 billion. The agency said it will roll over the remaining $6.8 billion into the planned “Phase II auction,” which now has an $11.2 budget that will target “partially-served areas.”


One of the auction winners for Mississippi was Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The company will be receiving $885 million in grants to bring broadband service to rural areas nationwide, including some parts of Mississippi, via its satellite-based Starlink program.


Elon Musk’s company will receive $44 million to build broadband infrastructure in 38,956 locations statewide.


“This first round of funds from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will make an incredible difference in the state of Mississippi as we work toward connecting every person to reliable high-speed internet,” said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, in a news release.


"There is much more work left to do, but this strong showing for our state’s internet providers is good news. I will continue working to improve internet access for all Mississippians and ensure the next phases of aid are awarded where they are most needed.”


The Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium will receive $220.58 million which includes 26 coops across the state. Others to receive funding include:

· NexTier Consortium will receive $45.17 million.

· Prospero Broadband Consortium will receive $42.35 million

· Bay Springs Telephone, which will receive $41.265 million.

· RDOF Consortium will receive $32.4 million.

· Connect Everyone LLC will receive $18.13 million.

· Windstream Services LLC will receive $12.63 million.


The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund supports broadband infrastructure over a 10-year period, with providers required to reach all assigned locations by the end of the sixth year. Incentives in the program encourage rapid buildup of broadband infrastructure, which is defined by the FCC program as 25 megabits per second download speed or faster.


Senator Wicker has introduced legislation to provide additional incentives for providers participating in the grant program to complete their construction sooner.


Since 2016, there have been $710 million in federal grants awarded to internet service providers in Mississippi under the Connect America Program.

Mississippi has already received $75 million in federal CARES Act funds to help extend broadband service to unserved or underserved areas this year.


The FCC will also create the 5G Fund for Rural America, which will distribute $9 billion over the next decade to bring 5G service to underserved rural parts of the U.S.


According to data from the most recent FCC wireless competition report from 2017, the digital divide has become a serious problem in the Magnolia State. Ninety-five percent of urban residents in Mississippi have access to high-speed internet service (defined as 25 megabits per second or faster). In rural areas, only half of residents have access to that level of internet service. In 12 of the state’s 82 counties, 5 percent of the population or less has access to high-speed internet. In 27 counties, only 25 percent or less of the population has high-speed internet service available.

@WRJW