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Optimal Network Strategies Will Increase Chances of Receiving Rural Broadband Funds

Jericho Casper

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Photo of fiber installation by Henri Cambier used with permission

June 12, 2020 — For regional operators, the stakes are more competitive than ever, as the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction has significantly accelerated the agency’s efforts to subsidize broadband coverage in unserved areas across America.

In a webinar hosted by Broadband Communities on Thursday, Render Networks CEO Sam Pratt and Co-founder Dan Flemming highlighted the ways in which operators and cooperatives seeking federal funds can better their chances of receiving funds.

“Determining network architecture and technology mix is operators’ first priority,” Flemming said, noting that success in the reverse-auction relies on operators’ ability to deploy high tier, low latency, future-proof networks at the lowest possible bid.

Identifying optimal build strategies, partner ecosystems and technology utilization for efficient network construction will ensure operators’ applications are well-positioned to benefit from the $20.4 billion available.

Pratt recommended operators seek out available partners with proven broadband deployment success to manage risks in current market conditions.

The speakers emphasized that building low latency networks at competitive bid prices requires efficiency, as approximately 70 percent of overall capital expenditure goes to network construction and materials. Setting delivery obligations and construction milestones will be necessary in creating a competitive application.

Because of the growth opportunities that fiber provides, the FCC is likely to look favorably upon fiber-to-the-home or mixed technology deployments, such as fixed wireless, which utilizes fiber backbones, said Pratt.

As of yet, bidders can plan to utilize any technology in their deployments, but this is subject to change before Phase 2 of RDOF is initiated.

Final eligibility procedures are due to be announced by the agency next week. Short form application filing for bidders interested in receiving RDOF funds opens on July 1.

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