On April 3, 2017, the FCC announced the formation of the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force to implement the upcoming Universal Service Fund (USF) related auctions. Although there was no discussion of a task force in the recent Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II Auction Order or the Mobility Fund Phase II Order, the auctions will be relatively complex and are a high priority for the new FCC Chairman as he has made broadband deployment to rural areas a goal during his Chairmanship.
The announcement was scant on details regarding what the Task Force will actually do, but it will likely function in a manner similar to the Incentive Auction Task Force, which pulled thought leaders from the FCC’s various Bureaus and Offices together to develop and implement the various moving parts of that auction. One important aspect of the Task Force will likely be coordination between the Wireline Competition Bureau, which administers the majority of the USF, and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, which administers the Mobility Fund.
The announcement of the Task Force is a positive development as the FCC prepares for the CAF Phase II and Mobility Fund Phase II auctions. Historically, the FCC has been slow in its implementation of USF reforms. The development of the Task Force may indicate that the FCC is committed to making rapid progress on the new administration’s rural broadband deployment plans.
We will provide updates as we learn more about the Task Force, and its impact on CAF Phase II and Mobility Fund Phase II.