FCC Releases RDOF Preliminary Eligible Areas List and Map

Challenges due April 10

Yesterday, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing the release of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) preliminary eligible areas census block list – the next step for the FCC to take as it moves along as scheduled toward the October auction start date. Because the FCC has not yet determined if the auction will be based on census block groups or on larger census tracts, the Public Notice provides the reserve prices (prices at which the auction will start) under both scenarios for “illustrative” purposes.

While a map of the eligible blocks is also included, the map is cumbersome when seeking to determine bidding amounts and strategies. We suggest companies use the map initially to determine whether there are any eligible census blocks in areas in which you may be interested. If so, contact us for a map that can serve as a more useful tool to determine the specific reserve prices for your areas of interest.

This notice also includes a limited challenge process with challenges due April 10, 2020. The FCC will release a final list of blocks at the conclusion of the challenge process prior to the RDOF short form deadline, which has not yet been scheduled.

Challenges will only be accepted from three categories:

  1. Census blocks that have become served with 25/3 Mbps or better since June 30, 2019, to address the lag between the most recent publicly available Form 477 data and when the block may have become served. In addition to making a filing in Docket No. 19-126, challengers in this category also should revise their Form 477 data by the established process.
  2. Census blocks that have been awarded funding from a federal or state broadband subsidy; where the provider has an enforceable commitment to offer broadband at 25/3 Mbps or greater, and funding has already been disbursed or a commitment has been executed. The FCC notes that RDOF winners may still be able to apply for funding from other programs.
  3. Rate-of-return census blocks identified by the provider as blocks where they do not expect to meet their USF broadband deployment obligations and therefore relinquish RDOF-ineligible blocks to be potentially eligible. As a reminder, rate-of-return census blocks not identified by a provider are not included in the RDOF, and any “split blocks” will only include locations on the price cap carrier’s side of the block.

As explained in our February 3 e-Lert about the RDOF, the eligible areas include census blocks in price cap areas that do not have a reported 25/3 Mbps provider based on June 30, 2019, FCC Form 477 data. Excluded from the preliminary list are the following:

  • Census blocks where a winning bidder in CAF Phase II is obligated to deploy voice and broadband (but has not done so yet)
  • Blocks won in the Rural Broadband Experiments where the winner is obligated to deploy at least 25/5 Mbps over networks capable of delivering 100/25 Mbps
  • The portions of any census blocks substantially overlapped by an award funded through USDA’s ReConnect program

As explained above, JSI can assist in creating more detailed maps and in analyzing the data to help you determine if there are viable areas in the RDOF for your company to consider. As well, we can help you determine the prices at which the bidding will begin in those areas. We can also assist in estimating how much your lowest bid in the auction should be as long as that assistance is provided prior to the due date for filing the short-form application. Additionally, we can assist with filing a challenge to the extent that you fit in one of the three limited challenge categories and in completing the short-form application.

If you have questions or if you’d like our help with any of these RDOF items, please contact a member of our team by clicking the button below.

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