On January 30, 2020, the FCC voted to establish the new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to fund the deployment of high-speed broadband networks in rural America. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions of American homes and businesses.
The first phase of RDOF will begin later in 2020 and is expected to provide broadband service providers with $16 billion to fund network builds in census blocks that are wholly unserved with fixed broadband at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps. Funds will be allocated through a multi-round reverse auction similar to the FCC's 2018 CAF II reverse auction. The RDOF auction will prioritize bids with commitments for networks with higher speeds, greater usage allowances, and lower latency. Bidders must also commit to provide a minimum speed more than double than was required in the CAF II auction. Phase II of the RDOF program will make available at least $4.4 billion to target census block areas where some locations lack access to 25/3 Mbps broadband.