I hope you're sitting down when you read this, because we have some news that will surprise you to your core. Frontier and CenturyLink tell the FCC that they "may not have met" their deployment deadlines that were part of hundreds of millions of dollars in Connect America Fund Round 2 (CAF II) money they received to deploy broadband to unserved areas.
OK, so you're not that surprised. And neither is the telecommunications industry in general as it has appeared for some time that the two large companies didn't seem to be in a real hurry to spend that money on new connectivity.
As usual, Telecompetitor has a great run-down of the situation. Overall, Frontier said it has met the deployment deadline in 8 states but missed it in 13 others. CenturyLink said it met the deadline in 10 states but missed it in 23 states. Oops.
Frontier's failures were in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
CenturyLink came up short in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Both companies appear to blame COVID-19 for their shortfalls, even though pandemic restrictions for just a fraction of the six year timespan they had to finish their work.
CenturyLink accepted $514 million a year for six years to build out the rural areas and Frontier accepted $283 million.
Similar concerns about accountability for the billions of dollars awarded under the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) has led a bipartisan group of US senators and representatives to send a letter to the FCC, asking the commission to thoroughly vet the RDOF auction winners.
"Without proper due diligence today, we fear that we will not know whether funds were improperly spent for years to come.” -- Congressional letter to the FCC
The letter is drawing praise and support from many in the industry, including representatives of rural carriers and REC's who question whether those RDOF dollars will be spent as advertised.
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June 16, 2021
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Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.