The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday adopted procedures for Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction (Auction 904), which will award up to $16 billion in support over 10 years for the deployment of fixed broadband networks to millions of unserved homes and businesses across rural America.

The $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is the FCC’s most ambitious step ever toward bridging the digital divide. It prioritizes bids for higher speed—up to 1 Gbps—and lower latency networks, and more than doubles the minimum speed from the FCC’s 2018 Connect America Phase II auction to 25/3 Mbps.

Bidding in the auction will begin on October 29, 2020, with the application window for
potential bidders opening on July 1. The Public Notice adopts application procedures to ensure that bidders have the business experience and financial means to deploy broadband networks and intend to use a network technology that will allow them to meet performance requirements.

Phase II of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will make available at least $4.4 billion, in
addition to unallocated funds from Phase I, to target partially served areas using precise,
granular broadband coverage data being developed in the Commission’s Digital Opportunity
Data Collection proceeding along with areas not won in the Phase I auction.

According to FCC, Commission staff will closely scrutinize applications to ensure that all applicants are proposing to use technologies with demonstrated success in providing mass market retail broadband to consumers.