On Friday, July 11, 2014 the FCC adopted an order implementing its planned “Rural Broadband Experiments”—a test-case program for disbursing subsidies to competitive providers that can deploy broadband to unserved areas. Our prior advisory provides additional background for interested readers.

The order has not yet been released by the FCC, but according to an agency fact sheet we expect the program will include a budget of $100 million for the entire program, allocated in the following manner: $100 million budget (overall), divided as follows:

  • $75 million to test deployment of networks which can deliver speeds of 25 Mbps (up) / 5 Mbps (down) to rural unserved areas;
  • $15 million to test deployment of networks that can deliver speeds of 10 Mbps / 1 Mbps to rural unserved areas; and
  • $10 million to test deployment of networks offering 10/1 speeds in “extremely high cost” areas.

This money will be allocated based upon applications and competitive bids submitted by interested parties. The order will establish that the period of support (subsidies) distributed to winning bidders will be for a period of 10 years.

Applications for this program will be due 90 days after release of the FCC order, and the agency expects to select winning bidders before the end of 2014. In addition, the FCC order will include an objective methodology to score applicants, and will include build-out requirements and accountability standards. Finally, we expect bidding will occur via a single round, rather than multiple rounds.

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP attorneys have filed multiple expressions of interest in this proceeding, and are very familiar with the program. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about how entities are preparing to file bids for the $100 million available under this new program.