Verizon, AT&T, Altice, Viasat among providers seeking government money for rural network build-outs

A sunset over a barn structure
The FCC's CAF-II program targets services in rural areas. (Getty/ehrlif)

The FCC released the names of 220 companies that have been approved to bid in the agency’s upcoming Connect America Fund II (CAF-II) auction. The auction will dole out up to $2 billion to winners to help them fund the construction of network connections to Americans who live in rural areas that don’t have speedy, inexpensive internet services.

The FCC’s latest CAF-II auction, scheduled to start late next month, will be a reverse auction: The FCC will set amounts it will pay providers to deploy broadband in specific locations, and then providers will bid below that figure in order to obtain that money. As Telecompetitor noted, the lowest bidder wins, but then will be pegged to actually deploy services in those specific locations.

As Broadcasting & Cable noted, the auction will dole out $1.98 billion over the next 10 years.

The auction is noteworthy considering AT&T, Windstream, Frontier and others are increasingly eyeing wireless technologies to meet the FCC’s rural build-out programs.

For example, Windstream is in the process of deploying Radwin’s fixed wireless equipment in two states covering thousands of potential customers under the FCC’s CAF-II program. Windstream is offering a handful of speeds over its fixed wireless network, with prices starting at $50 per month for 25 Mbps speeds, ranging up to $70 per month for 100 Mbps speeds. The service does not have a monthly usage cap.

Although the FCC released the identities of the bidders for its upcoming CAF-II auction, the agency didn’t release any other details, such as how each specific bidder might deploy services. The agency’s list of bidders includes a wide range of providers including cellular providers, telcos, cable operators, satellite companies and fixed wireless players.

The full list of the FCC’s qualified bidders is available at the end of this article.

Interestingly, the FCC also listed 57 bidders that were not approved. Shentel, Massilon Vyve Broadband, Allo Communications and Hammer Fiber Optic Investments were among those not approved.

The FCC has said that expanding broadband access in rural areas is one of its main goals. Along those lines, as noted by Engadget, the agency today also raised the annual spending cap on its Rural Health Care Program by 43% to $571 million to help expand remote medical services.