FCC unleashes $1.04B in RDOF funding but big bidders still waiting

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is ready to authorize its largest batch of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) support yet, raising the total amount approved to more than $2.7 billion.

It greenlighted a total of $1.04 billion in the latest round, funding it said would help 69 broadband providers deliver service to more than half a million locations across 32 states.

Windstream, a top five winner in the auction, received approval for dozens of winning bids in Pennsylvania, adding to previous approvals for bids in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Ziply Fiber had bids in Idaho, Oregon, Washington State and Montana approved. Others with a significant number of bids on the approvals list included Conexon Connect, Hawaiian Telecom, Midwest Energy Cooperative and Talkie Communications.

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The news marked the fifth “ready to authorize” RDOF announcement from the agency. An FCC representative previously told Fierce the release of RDOF funds is a two-step process which includes a “ready to authorize” announcement and the subsequent authorization of those funds to winning bidders. Only four releases in the latter category have been issued thus far.

“This latest round of funding will open up even more opportunities to connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, reliable broadband service,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

Waiting winners

The FCC is still sifting through the long-form applications of winning participants. Given a total of $9.2 billion was awarded during the RDOF Phase I auction, it has yet to approve several billion dollars-worth of bids.

The top ten winners in the RDOF auction were LTD Broadband ($1.3 billion); Charter Communications ($1.2 billion), the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium ($1.1 billion), SpaceX’s Starlink ($885.5 million); Windstream ($522.9 million); Nextlink ($429.2 million); Frontier Communications ($370.9 million); Resound Networks ($310.7 million); Starry ($268.9 million); and CenturyLink ($262.4 million). Thus far, only Windstream and some members of the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium have had winning bids approved in a “ready to authorize” notice.

It’s worth noting that LTD is still fighting to prove it is eligible to receive RDOF funding in the first place and requested waivers for more than 3,000 census blocks where it won support. Charter, Frontier and Starry also requested waivers for some of their winning bids, while SpaceX’s Starlink in June requested more time from the FCC to prove its eligibility status in California, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Oregon.


Alongside the approval notice, the FCC also updated its list of bidders in default. An FCC official told Fierce a total of 82 companies have defaulted on at least one census block, with 23,896 total blocks now in default. The funding associated with those blocks totals $220.7 million.

RELATED: RDOF winners already defaulted on $78M in bids — much more could follow

Those figures are up substantially from those cited in a preliminary default notice issued in July. At that time, the agency indicated more than 60 bidding entities had defaulted on winning bids totaling $78.5 million covering nearly 11,000 census blocks.