More RDOF Money Approved, Blue Ridge Replacing Coax with Fiber, YouTube Premium Growing Slowly

Thirteen additional bidders approved for RDOF, Blue Ridge going full fiber, YouTube Premium growing but trails other streaming apps.

More RDOF Money Approved, Blue Ridge Replacing Coax with Fiber, YouTube Premium Growing Slowly
Photo of Sen. Josh Hawley taken 2022 by Gage Skidmore

September 20, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission has announced approved funding to an additional 13 bidders from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

This latest round of winners represents only a narrow slice of the total $9.2 billion that were awarded over the course of the auction.

Funding for these companies is set to be dispensed over a ten-year period and cover hundreds of census blocks in North Dakota, Arkansas, Tennessee, Maryland, Minnesota, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Following the December auction results, the FCC has embarked on a clean-up operation after allegations that the winning bid territories would go to areas already served. This has resulted in the agency fielding a number of winning bidders saying their areas may already be served.

PA cable operator says it will replace coax with fiber

Blue Ridge Communications announced last week that it plans to replace all 8,000 miles of network in Pennsylvania with fiber-to-the-home within a five-year window.

“We will go as fast as our vendors allow us,” Blue Ridge vice president of operations Mark Masenheimer said in an interview with Fierce Telecom.

Blue Ridge Communications currently serves 250,000 residences in Pennsylvania with a combination of fiber and coaxial cable.

This push for fiber comes at a time of many national and state efforts—led primarily by Democrats and fiber advocates—to increase the speed definition of broadband. Though some, like acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel have voiced support for the movement, arguing that consumers need more bandwidth to leverage all the services offered to support telehealth, telework, and distance learning, others reject the premise.

Technology Policy Institute President Scott Wallsten told Broadband Breakfast in an interview that the emphasis on symmetrical speeds and higher standards is “nonsense” and is merely an effort to push fiber on customers by setting standards wireless providers simply cannot meet. He said that ultimately this will hurt connectivity efforts and delay those with no internet connect from receiving any internet connection.

YouTube Premium finding some success despite lagging behind other streaming apps

By the end of 2021, Alphabet’s YouTube Premium users are predicted to number around 23.6 million, a far cry from Netflix’s 209 million subscribers and just over half of Hulu’s nearly 40 million subscribers.

As streaming services continue to compete in an increasingly saturated market, YouTube has struggled to separate itself from the pack.

Despite this, HelpCenter data reflects an 18 percent year-over-year growth. By the end of 2024, YouTube Premium is expected to be just shy of 28 million subscribers. According to eMarketer data, the service saw the largest amount of growth in 2020, growing by 34.6 percent.

YouTube Premium is a highly Americentric service, with nearly 67 percent of subscribers operating in the U.S.; nearly half of all YouTube’s global net ad revenue comes from the U.S.

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