CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday will begin its auction of broadband projects in rural areas, including parts of West Virginia.
The auction is in connection with the agency’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, in which up to $20 billion is available nationally for projects. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in September projects bidders for West Virginia projects could receive up to $760 million.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said on Wednesday’s “MetroNews Talkline” five West Virginia companies are certified bidders.
“That is terrific news because when it first came out, there was some criticism from some of there were no local companies,” she said. “It was still in the process, and I’ve talked to all of these companies to make sure that we’re in there.”
Multiple out-of-state companies, including Verizon Communications Inc. and Frontier Communications Corp., can also bid on the projects.
“It’ll be a competitive bidding process that fundamentally reshapes broadband connectivity in West Virginia,” state Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, told MetroNews. “It will catapult us from near last in America to among some of the best in the nation.”
Carmichael noted around 121,000 homes would be impacted by the expanded coverage.
“What’s different about this is it’s opened up to smaller providers to incentivize competition,” he said.
Carmichael said in the past, there was not a competitive bidding process.
“These companies would get it and maybe they would perform, maybe they didn’t,” he said. “In this case, there are clawback mechanisms if you do not provide the services you commit to. There are requirements that the providers that win these auctions have to put up letters of credit so that they have skin in the game and money at risk if they don’t perfectly perform broadband delivery.”
Companies will receive funding for 10 years for completing the project, yet have four years to complete work.