Charter requests limited exemption from RDOF after finding numerous inaccuracies
Charter Communications filed a May 11 waiver request with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its allocation at the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction.
Charter, like all RDOF auction winners, has promised to bring broadband to unserved areas. But the company has audited the census block groups (CBGs) where it has received funds, and it has been found that several of these areas already have broadband or will receive it soon.
By bidding as CCO Holdings, Charter received $ 1.22 billion in the RDOF Phase 1 auction, which closed in December 2020. Charter won 5,366 GBC, representing approximately 1 million homes and small businesses in 24 states for which it has pledged to provide fiber broadband. services.
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But now Charter is seeking a limited waiver of its RDOF deployment obligations in Massachusetts and small areas of Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The company said that during the process of determining areas not served by broadband, there were inaccuracies. And therefore, some areas included in the auction were in fact served by a broadband provider and should not have been included in the RDOF auction.
Charter says many of these inaccuracies were not his fault, but rather incomplete broadband databases, faulty broadband cards and varying definitions of “unserved”. In addition, some areas became served by broadband after the allocation of RDOF funds.
For example, he said that in Massachusetts, the RDOF auction included many areas where the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) had awarded grants for broadband expansion projects prior to the auction in the part of its “last mile program”. But these grants were not identified during the RDOF process, so many census blocks were incorrectly identified as “fully unserved” and included in the RDOF Phase 1 auction.
Charter and MBI agree that the best outcome would be for Charter not to use RDOF support to deploy its network in approximately 33 GBCs in Massachusetts, but rather to request a waiver from the FCC to remove those areas from its RDOF obligations.
Charter has also discovered smaller but similar overlaps in Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin and is also asking for limited relief from its deployment obligations in these areas. The number of census block groups in these states is nominal – ranging from 5 to 1 GBC.
The company wants specific CBGs to be excluded from its long-term RDOF application, without incurring penalties. Funds for these CBGs would not be allocated to Charter.
The company says it plans to invest several billion dollars of its own funds – in addition to its RDOF support – to bring gigabit service to unserved areas. “To achieve this goal, Charter is expanding its existing construction organization to focus on the deployment of this new fiber optic network and plans to hire more than 2,000 employees and contractors to support the RDOF and future rural construction initiatives.” , he said in his waiver request.
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“Identifying instances in which the RDOF and a state (or municipal, tribal or other federal) broadband program support the deployment of broadband in the same areas is an extremely factual and time-consuming exercise,” Charter said.