In a release today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it was voiding applications by two of the biggest Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) bidders from December 2020. This includes more than $885 million for Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) provider Starlink and more than $1.3 billion for LTD Broadband, Inc.
LTD’s original winning bids are spread across 15 states, but there has been speculation brewing since late last year from industry experts as to if funds would be released at all. We’ve seen 12 releases from the FCC since late winter authorizing funds for most of the winning bidders (from the monopoly providers to consortia of rural electric cooperatives), which we’ve collected in our Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Dashboard here. Conversely, there has been relatively little conversation about why Starlink had not yet received any of its winning bids.
Skepticism about Speed, Deployment and Cost
The FCC’s decision to revoke the winning bids for Starlink seem to be based on the (laudable) premise that when public funds go to providers to ease the capital costs of bringing service to high-cost areas, policymakers and regulators should consider the long-term digital equity implications for ISPs with baseline service tiers. Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting just wrote about this two weeks ago, asking whether “an agency that awards grants or other broadband subsidies [should] somehow insist that broadband rates are somehow tied to market rates.” It seems from the FCC’s announcement that the answer is yes, with Chairwoman...Read more