- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established a $1.2 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to finance broadband development in 32 states.
- Additionally, the FCC unveiled the Rural Broadband Accountability Plan, which calls for increased audits and verifications this year compared to 2021.
- By 2022, the number of audits and verifications will have doubled from 2021 levels and will include both on-site and random selection audits and verifications.
- The most significant financial sums recipients will be audited on-site in at least one state, while those at greater risk will undergo further audits and verifications.
- USAC will make the results of verifications, audits, and speed and latency performance testing publicly available on its website for the first time.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established a $1.2 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to finance broadband development in 32 states. The FCC refers to this as the “biggest financing round to date,” noting that 23 broadband providers would expand service to over one million new regions.
Additionally, the FCC announced the Rural Broadband Accountability Plan, which will increase the number of audits and verifications conducted this year vs. 2021. Further, it would force the FCC to publish the findings of verifications, audits, and speed and latency testing on the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) website.
According to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the new Rural Broadband Accountability Plan will streamline audit and verification processes while making verification, audit, and latency testing data publicly available for the first time. These measures will help to guarantee that program providers carry out their responsibilities.
The epidemic exacerbated rural America’s connectivity gaps, as people worked from home and children attended school remotely. President Joe Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan into law in November, allocating $65 billion toward bringing the internet to every American family. Late last year, the FCC also introduced a lower-cost internet program to low-income households.
FCC’s Corporate Grants:
The FCC granted corporations a total of $9.2 billion in December 2020 through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, including an $886 million subsidy to SpaceX. The Elon Musk-owned firm was meant to use the funding to build a satellite internet network in remote places. Still, the FCC urged SpaceX and other providers to cease utilizing the funds to deliver service to well-connected locations last year.
The commission said in July 2021 that it would “clean up” the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund after discovering that funding had been approved to construct broadband in urban areas or regions already served by high-speed internet. These businesses have been instructed to defend their bids or withdraw their financing proposals. The FCC now intends to increase monitoring of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund winners. According to the commission, it will be:
- Increasing the number of audits and verifications of assistance beneficiaries – In 2022, the number of audits and verifications will double from 2021 levels. It will comprise on-site audits and validations based on random selection.
- Expanding audits and verifications of primary and high-risk receivers of assistance – The receivers of the most significant financial amounts will be subject to an on-site audit in at least one state. At the same time, those at greater risk will face further audits and verifications.
- Enhancing program openness — For the first time, USAC will make the findings of verifications, audits, and speed and latency performance testing publicly available on its website.
The FCC also says it has been contacting bidders in “areas where there was evidence of existing service or concerns about waste,” denying waivers to bidders “who have not made appropriate efforts to secure state approvals or prosecute their applications,” and publishing “a list of areas where providers defaulted” so that other companies can bid on those areas.