FCC seeks to reduce rural broadband funding waste with new accountability program

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 30, 2022
Updated 2022/01/30 at 6:05 PM

The Federal Communications Commission is ready to authorize more than in financing through . , the 10-year program seeks to expand broadband Internet access across rural America. In an ad discovered by the FCC says the wave of funding will see 23 broadband providers bring internet service to more than 1 million locations in 32 states.

In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, the FCC also announced the a program to ensure that Rural Digital Opportunity Fund grantees properly spend the resources they receive from the public.

As part of the program, the FCC plans to double the number of audits it conducts in 2022 compared to 2021. It will also subject the largest dollar recipients to on-site audits and random checks to ensure compliance. In addition, the FCC plans to publish the results of its audits, speed tests, and latency tests on the USAC website so that the public can participate in the accountability process. “These new measures will help ensure that the providers we fund under this program get the job done,” said FCC President Jessica Rosenworcel.

The announcement of the Rural Broadband Accountability Plan comes after the FCC said last year it was taking steps to “” the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. In July, the agency revisited the winning bids from the December 2020 auction program, which was overseen by , after receiving complaints that it “was about to fund broadband for parking lots and well-served urban areas” rather than rural communities. The FCC sent letters to 197 organizations and companies, including , giving them the opportunity to withdraw their funding requests.

“This program can do great things, but it requires careful oversight,” Rosenworcel said at the time. “That’s why we’re refocusing the program on underserved areas and informing successful bidders of their obligation to ensure support gets to the areas that need it.”

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