Enlarge /. A Charter Spectrum Van in West Lake Hills, Texas in April 2019.
The Federal Communications Commission is helping Charter to avoid broadband competition in New York State by deciding to block government funding for other ISPs in locations where chartering needs to be built.
The FCC plans to grant ISPs up to $ 16 billion from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) over a 10-year period in a reverse auction, scheduled to start in October. The FCC announced yesterday that it has "honored Charter Communications' request to remove 2,127 census blocks in New York from the list of eligible areas, as the company offers broadband in accordance with an agreement with the State of New York these locations. ""
Regardless, the FCC declined an application from Frontier Communications to exclude nearly 17,000 census blocks in parts of 29 countries from the auction.
RDOF rules block funding in census blocks that already have Internet access at home with a speed of at least 25 Mbit / s downstream and 3 Mbit / s upstream. The RDOF rules also block funding in census blocks where at least one ISP has received money from a federal or state broadband subsidy program "to provide 25 / 3Mbps or better service". As we have previously reported, this rule would not prevent ISPs from receiving funding for parts of New York where a merger requires charter to provide services but construction is not yet complete. Charter applied to the FCC for a ban on RDOF funding in census blocks "where Charter has non-funded but mandatory government obligations to provide broadband services of at least 25/3 Mbps".
Charter's New York project is subject to the conditions set by the state government for the purchase of Time Warner Cable. Charter did not meet the preliminary deadlines for this project, but was given an additional year to comply with a settlement agreeing to pay $ 12 million for other new broadband deployments. According to the new, postponed deadline, Charter must complete the provision of services to 145,000 households and businesses in Upstate New York by September 30, 2021. Charter offers services under the brand name Spectrum.
The FCC said that excluding New York's census blocks from this year's auction "will promote the Commission's goal that rural digital opportunity fund support flow into areas most in need of universal service support to drive broadband delivery – those who that are completely unaffected by broadband speeds of 25 / 3Mbps. "
The FCC originally excluded all of New York from the auction, but reversed the decision after protest. After yesterday's decision, 47,024 homes and businesses in New York can be financed from this year's auction.
There are approximately 11 million census blocks in the United States, but several million are unoccupied. The size of each census block varies from "one block in a city bordered by streets on all sides" to "hundreds of square miles" in remote areas, according to the Census Bureau.
FCC denies Frontier
In another part of the same contract, the FCC announced yesterday that it would approve funding in 16,987 census blocks in which Frontier claimed to offer 25/3 Mbps services. Frontier, which filed for bankruptcy in April 2020, was skeptical when it claimed to the FCC that it had provided 25/3 Mbps broadband for these 16,987 census blocks since June 2019. Frontier later stated that its list of 16,987 census blocks did not reflect anything new builds since June 2019, but more accurate coverage of the fastest speeds available in certain blocks, "the FCC said.
The FCC agreed that there was reason to be skeptical. "Given the numerous and significant concerns in the files regarding the validity of Frontier 's filing, including its own admission that the June 2019 data was misfiled, the revision error it sought to revise, and the inconsistent explanations for The Commission contested their challenge The Frontier Challenge, "said the FCC.
Frontier asked the FCC to exclude the 16,987 census blocks in a April 10 filing. Frontier, however, abandoned this request a month and a half later, notifying the FCC on May 23 that it would "welcome the contested disputes to the RDOF auction in census blocks in which Frontier operates at a speed of 25/3 Mbps and offers more. "These census blocks are located in 29 states; Frontier has completed the sale of its activities in four of these countries since the original filing.
Nationwide, the FCC determined that 5,392,530 households and businesses are considered "undeveloped locations" where this year's $ 16 billion auction can distribute funds. The RDOF's total budget over a 10-year period is $ 20.4 billion. The remaining $ 4.4 billion will be distributed after the FCC has collected more accurate broadband map data.
Disclosure: The Advance / Newhouse partnership, which owns 13 percent of the charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications owns Condé Nast, which Ars Technica owns.