The Federal Corner

Welcome to The Federal Corner. Federal agencies disburse millions of dollars in broadband funds each year through multiple agencies and programs. Identifying and educating our State’s broadband stakeholders about these federal programs is essential to Colorado’s ability to secure our “unfair share” of federal funds in order to facilitate broadband access for all Coloradans. In support of Colorado stakeholders’ efforts to secure federal funding, The Federal Corner will provide summary information and links to federal initiatives affecting broadband funding policy and programs.


United States Department of Agriculture

ReConnect

ReConnect is the USDA’s newest grant, loan, and combination grant/loan program supporting broadband access to rural homes, farms and businesses.

Reconnect Round 2 (click to expand)

The application window for ReConnect Round 2 closes April 15, 2020. The USDA will make up to $200 million for grants, up to $200 million for 50/50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. The USDA can move money between funding products given the demand on each funding product.

ReConnect Round 1 (click to expand)

ReConnect Round one applications are still under review. The USDA will continue to announce awards until all Round I applications have been evaluated. Check the ReConnect Program Awardees page for updates.

Three Colorado broadband providers filed ReConnect round I applications, totaling more than $27M, offering to bring FTTP to over 4,000 rural Coloradans. Emery Telcom was awarded a $3.6M, 100% grant for FTTP, serving 551 homes and farms, 494 in Colorado and 57 in Utah.


Federal Communications Commission

The FCC continues to make progress on a number of proceedings initiated this past summer. Below is a brief description of the Report and Orders (R&Os) and Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRMs) with links containing more information.



Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band for 5G

WT Docket No. 18-120

Report and Order (PDF)

Click for Details (Updated 2020-03-23)

The R&O establishes a priority filing window for rural Tribal Nations to obtain unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum, formerly designated as the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). On November 1, the FCC launched the Rural Tribal Window web page. The web page provides a mapping tool which Tribal communities can use to determine the compatibility of the unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum and eligible Tribal lands. The Rural Tribal Priority Window opened Monday, February 3, 2020, and closes on Monday, August 3, 2020 at 6 p.m. EDT. A list of applications that have been submitted in the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Window can be found at submitted applications. Further information about the Rural Tribal Window, including the dates, application filing process, and the workshop, will be announced on the Rural Tribal Window website.

Digital Opportunity Data Collection

WC Docket Nos. 19-195 and 11-10

Report and Order and second FNPRM (PDF)

Click for Details (Updated 2020-03-23)

The R&O establishes a new data collection methodology, collecting geospatial broadband coverage data from fixed providers (Form 477). Comments and reply comments were filed on September 23, and October 7, 2019 respectively. The Governor’s Office, in conjunction with a number of other State agencies, filed comments suggesting best practices for data collection. As of March 23, 2020, 149 comments, reply comments, ex partes, petitions for reconsideration, and congressional correspondence have been filed in this proceeding. This matter remains under consideration by the FCC.

Rural Health Care Program Changes

WC Docket No. 17-310

Report and Order (PDF)

Click for Details (Updated 2020-03-23)

The R&O adopted changes to the Rural Healthcare (RHC) program for FY2020. A key change, current healthcare providers (HCPs) and new program consortia must be “majority rural” to be eligible for discounts. The R&O eliminated the three-year grace period for consortia to become majority rural and there is no grandfathering of prior Pilot Program consortia or other existing consortia.  “Majority rural” means that more than 50% of participating HCPs in a consortium must be rural. Funding requests filed by consortia that are not in compliance with this rule will be denied. See RHC website for upcoming training sessions. January 1 is the first day for applicants to submit their request for services for FY2020 (FCC Form 461 and FCC Form 465).

Reply comments were filed on January 13, 2020, on petitions for reconsideration of the August 2019 rural health care order. As of March 23, 2020, 378 comments, reply comments, ex partes, petitions for reconsideration and congressional correspondence have been filed in this proceeding. The matter remains under consideration by the FCC.

Universal Service Contribution Methodology

WC Docket No. 06-122

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (PDF)

Click for Details (Updated 2020-03-23)

The FCC seeks comment on establishing a cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF), and proposes to combine the RHC & the E-rate program. Comments and Reply Comments were filed July 29 and August 26, 2019, respectively. The FCC has not acted on this matter, and it is not on circulation at the FCC.

Modernizing the E-rate Program for Schools and Libraries

WC Docket No. 13-184

Report and Order (PDF) 

Click for Details (Updated 2020-03-23)

On January 27, 2020, the FCC issued a Report and Order (R&O) eliminating the requirement that E-Rate applicants amortize upfront, non-recurring charges of $500,000 or more for category one services, including charges for special construction projects.

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

WC Docket Nos. 19-126

Public Notice

Click for Details (Updated 2020-03-23)

On February 28, the FCC issued a Public Notice (PN) proposing bidding procedures in the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which will make up to $16 billion available for the deployment of fixed broadband in unserved rural areas of the country. The PN seeks comment on the appropriate minimum size of eligible funding areas and proposes operational, technical, and financial information applicants and winning bidders would be required to submit. Comments are due March 27, 2020, and replies are due April 10, 2020. The bidding in Phase I of the RDOF 904 reverse auction is expected to start in October.

Phase II of the RDOF program will make $4.4 billion available in areas deemed partially served, in addition to the census blocks that weren’t awarded in Phase I. The FCC proposes to use more precise broadband mapping data, under development in the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection proceeding, for the distribution of RDOF Phase II funding.

Promoting Access to Connected Care Services

WC Docket No. 18-213

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Click for Details (Updated 2020-03-23)

Comments and Reply Comments were filed August 29 and September 30, 2019, respectively. As of March 23, 2020, 271 comments and reply comments have been filed in this proceeding. The Colorado Office of eHealth Innovation filed comments on behalf of the Governor’s office. This proceeding remains under consideration by the FCC.

Stay Connected during COVID-19: Broadband Resources and Updates