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[Statement] FCC opens comments on RDOF amnesty in response to coalition letter



Photo of Gigi B. Sohn

The FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau announced today that it is seeking public comment on a letter filed last week requesting a short, limited amnesty period designed to encourage providers to relinquish Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and Connect America Fund II (CAF II) awards if unable or unwilling to build the networks they were awarded public funds to complete.


The February 28 letter, signed by a broad and diverse coalition of nearly 70 broadband experts, internet service providers (ISPs), community leaders, and nonprofits seeks to prevent the exclusion of America’s least connected rural communities from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.


Communities covered by grants awarded under existing programs, including RDOF and CAF II, are currently ineligible for BEAD funding. But the high rate of default in RDOF projects — with more projected to default — puts hundreds, possibly thousands, of rural communities at risk of being left without financial support that will be critical to bringing connectivity to residents and businesses. Today’s public notice from the FCC raises hopes that many of these areas will be released and made eligible for BEAD funding.


Gigi Sohn, Executive Director of AAPB released the following statement:

 

"The broad and diverse coalition of ISPs, organizations, unions and government officials thank the FCC for acting with great urgency in seeking public comment on an issue that is critical to closing the digital divide in rural America. Quite simply, the letter on which the FCC invites comment seeks to ensure that large swaths of rural America are not left out of Congress' huge investment in broadband. By giving RDOF and CAF II awardees a very limited period of amnesty in which they would not be assessed full penalties should they default, the FCC would be doing a great service to communities all over the US. It will also aid state broadband offices, some of which have already sought waivers of NTIA’s prohibition on providing BEAD funding (Alabama and Florida) where other funding is already committed, and others (Arkansas), that have sent letters to awardees asking them to declare their intention to meet their obligations or default."


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