The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Connect America Fund which offers telecom companies and states money to expand broadband access in rural america, has authorized new funding with the goal of connecting 400,000 people in 41 states. Over $250 million in funding will go to the expansion effort, despite early rejections of the funding by big telecoms.
The new authorization brings the total authorized from the first phase of the Connect America Fund to nearly $403 million. Five carriers will use the funds in rural portions of their service areas where, absent support from the Connect America Fund, broadband expansion was unlikely. The carriers are AT&T, CenturyLink, Fairpoint Communications, Frontier Communications, and Windstream Corp.
CivSource has already reported on some of Frontier and CenturyLink’s work with phase one funds. Frontier was an early mover on taking the funds and has a stated focus of bringing access to rural areas. Rural and small town demand for high speed broadband continues to climb.
In August, the five carriers identified 563,767 locations where they wanted to use Connect America funds to reach customers unserved by broadband. The eligibility of some of those locations was challenged. The new authorization approves funding for 393,409 locations that were not subject to a challenge.
“Access to modern broadband networks is essential in the information age,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “Yet 15 million Americans live in areas where they can’t get wireline broadband no matter how much they want it. These funds will jump-start broadband access in areas that would otherwise be bypassed by the digital economy.”