With apologies to Shakespeare, we take this opportunity to remind interested parties that the first deadline for initial applications to participate in the FCC’s historic Connect America Fund Phase II reverse auction (“CAF II Auction") is just over a month away. Are you ready? Carriers interested in pursuing a share of the approximately $1.98 billion available under the CAF II Auction (officially, Auction 903) should immediately begin preparations for filing the short form application that is due in just over one month – on March 30, 2018.

As expected, the FCC recently released the text of the final Public Notice that provides a roadmap for bidders participating in the auction. In particular, the Public Notice outlines the final bidding procedures for the auction, deadlines for participation in the auction, and post-auction procedures and requirements. As we have reported previously, the CAF II auction will award up to $1.98 billion over 10 years to service providers that commit to offer voice and broadband services to fixed locations in unserved high-cost areas. The FCC will use a multi-round, descending clock “reverse auction” process to select the winning bidders. Service providers seeking a share of this support must participate in the reverse auction to secure support for the specific areas where they propose to deploy voice and broadband service.

The Public Notice adopts the final schedule to participate in the CAF II Auction, and the deadline for filing the short-form application is March 30, 2018. Those short form applicants selected by the FCC will then have the opportunity to participate in the reverse auction which is scheduled to begin on July 24, 2018. Winning bidders in the reverse auction will then be required to file a long-form application later in the process. The Public Notice also outlines final rules governing application requirements, geographic areas for bidding, reserve prices and bidding procedures.

Key Deadlines

Key dates in this proceeding are:

  • March 30 – short-form application window closes (deadline to file)
  • July 24 – auction begins

Pre-Auction Education

Following the close of the short-form application deadline, but prior to the start of the auction in late July, the Commission will release additional resources to assist auction participants in preparing for the auction. We expect the Commission will hold webinars, conduct mock auctions and release other informational material in advance of the auction.

Areas Eligible for Support

The Commission also recently released a Public Notice that finalizes the list of census blocks eligible for the CAF II Auction. In total, there are 210,647 census blocks covering nearly 1 million homes and small businesses across the United States that are eligible for support. The list of CAF II Eligible Census Blocks can be found here, a related list of Census Block Groups can be found here, and a map of CAF II Eligible locations can be found here.

The CAF II Auction represents an opportunity for competitive broadband providers to obtain valuable Universal Service support in exchange for deploying broadband and voice service to unserved locations across the country. However, deadlines for participation in the CAF II Auction are drawing closer and interested providers should immediately begin work to prepare for the auction and the initial short form application deadline on March 30, 2018.