On June 11, 2020, the Commission released the Public Notice (“Notice”) announcing filing requirements and other procedures for the Phase I auction of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) (Auction 904), which will award up to $16 billion in support over 10 years for the deployment of broadband services in unserved areas (AU Docket No. 20-34; WC Docket Nos. 19-126, 10-90). The bidding in the RDOF auction is scheduled to begin on October 29, 2020.
The adopted item makes several substantive changes from the circulated draft version:
- The Commission clarified that it declines to revise the questions to collect more detailed technical showings from short-form applications because the Commission already asks for certain information regarding an applicant’s ability to scale its network to meet demand in the short-form application (¶ 70).
- The Commission clarified it seeks to modify the proposed questions to ensure the Commission collects targeted information to address concerns raised in the record with regards to DSL and fixed wireless providers proposing to bid in the Gigabit performance tier, satellite providers proposing to bid in the Above Baseline performance tier, and low earth orbit satellite providers proposing to bid for low latency. The Commission expanded the network performance question applicable to fixed broadband wireless access networks to include satellite providers and modified the question to require applicants to describe how the planned customer premises equipment will yield sufficient capacity (¶ 73).
- The Commission also added that it will require applicants that propose to use satellite technologies to describe how the proposed network will achieve the performance tier(s) and latency requirements to all planned locations in mass-market consumer service.
- The Commission clarified that it will not allow an applicant who intends to use geostationary, high earth orbit, or medium earth orbit satellite technology to select low latency (¶ 99). However, an applicant proposing to use low earth orbit satellite technology will have the opportunity to demonstrate in its short-form application to Commission staff that it is reasonably capable of offering service meeting the low latency requirements (¶ 100).
- The Commission clarified that it will not adopt specific presumptions or non-compliance measures related to its ability to initiate enforcement proceedings against applicants that submit “threadbare or wholly unrealistic technical showings while selecting the Gigabit or other higher performance tiers” in order to retain the flexibility to take enforcement actions. The Commission also clarified that the base default forfeiture adopted for Auction 904 will be subject to adjustment upward or downward as appropriate based on the criteria set forth in the Commission’s forfeiture guidelines (¶ 108).
- In a change from the draft Order, the Commission states that it will allow applicants proposing to use a low earth orbit satellite network to apply to offer low latency services based on the intrinsic advantages of low earth orbit satellites in providing lower latency services when compared to geosynchronous and medium earth orbit satellites. However, the Commission states it is unaware of any low earth orbit network capable of providing mass-market retail broadband service to residential consumers that could meet the Commission’s 100 ms round-trip latency requirements and has “serious” doubts any low earth orbit networks will be able to meet the short-form application requirements for bidding in the low latency tier (¶ 111 and 112).
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