Wavelengths: RDOF and Broadband Deployment in the US.
RDOF, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, is a critical piece of federal funding for broadband initiatives. RDOF already allocated round one of funding. Still, as round two gets underway, Wavelengths asked Tyler Cooper, Editor in Chief of BroadbandNow, to provide an eagle-eye view on RDOFs past and present to form some actionable strategies for the future as the FCC prepares new rules for fund payout. Cooper wrote an in-depth article for BroadbandNow on RDOF titled, Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) –Map, Auction and Analysis.
RDOF is an FCC program designed to close the digital divide by investing over $20 billion to construct rural broadband networks as a brief refresher. The total funding, spread out over ten years, will include multiple phases. RDOF is an evolving initiative that’s already changed since its inception.
Since the enaction of RDOF, the pandemic arrived and served as a wakeup call for everyone that broadband access is essential. “We have an entirely new work dynamic,” Cooper said. “For a long time, we had distance learning and telemedicine taking the spotlight. All these things have shifted the perception of broadband. It’s no longer a luxury. It’s truly a prerequisite for modern living in many ways.”
Cooper said that while round one RDOF funds are in play, it is still too early to see quantifiable results. “None of those funds have touched the provider’s hands yet.” One could look at this process as more of a marathon than a sprint. But Cooper was optimistic that phase one would significantly impact rural Americans regarding broadband access. However, some of the funding from other federal initiatives like the Infrastructure and Jobs Act might bring more recognizable changes sooner.