Commentary by John P. Fletcher
The Federal Communications Commission recently proposed a new $20.4 billion fund for rural broadband expansion. This Rural Digital Opportunity Fund could represent the best chance over the next decade to narrow the digital divide for many rural communities. While much work remains to finalize the fund, the FCC's proposal outlines a framework that will likely define federal broadband policy for rural America over the next decade.
The federal dollars that will support the fund are currently allocated to the largest wireline carriers (called price cap carriers) under a program called the Connect America Fund, Phase II (CAF II). In Arkansas, the price cap carriers are AT&T, CenturyLink and Windstream. No earlier than 2021, the fund would repurpose and reallocate these CAF II funds.