FCC doles out $18.2B in Enhanced A-CAM support

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authorized over $18.2 billion in Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model (Enhanced A-CAM) support for 368 carriers that have accepted the extended subsidy offer.

Those companies are committing to deploy broadband service of at least 100/20 Mbps service to over 700,000 locations and maintain or improve existing 100/20 Mbps service to some 2 million locations in 44 states. The Enhanced A-CAM allocations for each provider, listed in the Commission’s Authorization Report released this week, will extend over a 15-year period beginning January 1, 2024. 

TDS Telecom, a long-time supporter of A-CAM, elected to receive enhanced support and was authorized around $90 million per year across 24 states. To name a few others, Great Plains Communications elected to receive Enhanced A-CAM support in Nebraska and Indiana, which collectively will bring the carrier over $34 million each year.

Cable One will receive enhanced support in South Carolina and Missouri, as will WideOpenWest (WOW!) in Alabama and Georgia and Ritter Communications in Arkansas and Tennessee.

Established in 2016, A-CAM aims to support broadband deployments in eligible high-cost areas. So far, it’s consisted of two iterations: A-CAM I, which required providers to deploy speeds of at least 10/1 Mbps, and A-CAM II, which the FCC introduced in 2018 and increased the speed requirement to 25/3 Mbps. A-CAM I runs through 2026, while A-CAM II extended support through 2028. The program doesn’t require providers to use a specific type of technology for deployment.

The FCC decided to renew its A-CAM program in July, making an additional $13.5 billion in support available over a 10-year extension of the current A-CAM term. At the same time, the Commission raised the speed requirements to at least 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream for participating providers.

The FCC released the funding structure for its Enhanced A-CAM program in September, and the latest Authorization Report released by the Commission presents an initial list of required locations to which deployment is required by carriers in their respective regions. The report notes that determining locations an Enhanced A-CAM carrier is required to serve is “subject to an adjustment process that will be completed no later than December 31, 2025.” 

The Enhanced A-CAM also synchronizes its progress goals with the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program by mandating that participating carriers provide their services to all designated locations within a four-year timeframe.

The FCC's decision to extend the A-CAM program has received divided reactions across the broadband industry.

Earlier this year, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, as well as representatives from Comcast, Charter and Cox, all pushed back against the FCC’s proposal to extend the program. The parties argued that operators “have made significant investments” in rural expansions in recent years and that “expanding the ACAM programs by awarding incumbent LECs a sole-source contract, with no competitive bidding process, would be a poor policy choice.”

The ACAM Broadband Coalition — comprised of rural operators that accepted A-CAM support, including TDS Telecom, Great Plains Communications, Ritter Communications, Arvig and others — has been a proponent of extending the program.

The NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband have also expressed favor for the Enhanced A-CAM program.