Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) – Map, Auction and Analysis
Visualizing the Impact of the FCC’s Largest Funding Initiative in YearsWritten by
July 21, 2021
What Is The RDOF?
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a Federal Communications Commission program designed to close the digital divide in the United States by investing billions of dollars in the construction of rural broadband networks.
The budget allocated for this funding initiative amounts to $20.4 billion, which will be awarded over a 10-year period to winning providers after the auction process is complete. The RDOF will be split into two distinct phases:
“Up to” $16 billion will be made available to providers during this phase, which will likely last several years. Phase I will exclusively include census blocks that are completely unserved by an existing broadband provider, and is currently underway.
$4.4 billion, alongside any remaining Phase I funds, will be allocated during this second and final phase of the RDOF. Phase II will include remaining areas not completed in Phase I, as well as census blocks that are “partially serviced”.
RDOF Interactive Map
The RDOF could help to dramatically reshape the longstanding digital divide in the U.S. over the next decade by providing substantial funding and support to areas that are currently completely unserved by an existing broadband provider.
The interactive map below highlights in red every census block in the U.S. without a terrestrial broadband provider. This is a way of visualizing where providers have bid on establishing service using RDOF funds for Phase I. These funds are exclusively meant to go toward census blocks that are not currently served by any terrestrial broadband provider offering at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.
Understanding The FCC’s Reverse Auction Process
Consider the mechanics of a standard auction: one seller is trying to maximize the amount that they receive for an item or service, so they allow multiple buyers to bid all at once on said item, thereby creating a competitive mechanism to increase the final price.
The FCC’s auction process works in the reverse: one buyer (in this case, the federal government) is attempting to drive down the price of the service, which is distributing broadband infrastructure to rural Americans. To accomplish this, bidding will be opened to multiple sellers, who are competing against each other to provide the best balance of technological robustness to price.
Major RDOF Auction Winners
The following ten companies were the largest recipients of RDOF Phase I funding:
|Company||Bidding entity||Amount||Locations||Number of states||Technology|
|LTD Broadband||LTD Broadband LLC||$1,320,920,718.60||528,088||15||fiber, fixed wireless|
|Charter||CCO Holdings, LLC (Charter Communications)||$1,222,613,870.10||1,057,695||24||fiber, cable|
|Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium||Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium||$1,104,395,953.00||618,476||22||fiber|
|SpaceX||Space Exploration Technologies Corp.||$885,509,638.40||642,925||35||low-Earth orbit broadband|
|Windstream||Windstream Services LLC, Debtor-In-Possession||$522,888,779.80||192,567||18||asymmetric xDSL, fiber, fixed wireless|
|Nextlink||AMG Technology Investment Group LLC||$429,228,072.90||206,136||12||fiber, fixed wireless|
|Frontier||Frontier Communications Corporation, DIP||$370,900,832.80||127,188||8||fiber, fixed wireless|
|Resound Networks||Resound Networks, LLC||$310,681,608.90||219,239||7||fiber, fixed wireless|
|Starry||Connect Everyone LLC||$268,851,315.90||108,506||9||fiber, fixed wireless|
|CenturyLink||CenturyLink, Inc.||$262,367,614.20||77,257||20||asymmetric xDSL, fiber|
How The RDOF Promotes Future-Proofing Of Technologies And Services
The FCC stated that the auction process placed priority on networks with faster download and upload speeds, and lower levels of latency. This ideally creates a forcing function toward more robust technologies such as fiber, which will, in the agency’s own words, “ensure that those benefiting from these networks will be able to use tomorrow’s internet applications as well as today’s”. At the same time, the FCC bills its process as being “technologically neutral,” offering multiple performance tiers for service providers to bid on.