The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today approved final rules for a program that will funnel $20.4 billion over ten years to communications service providers to extend fast broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of the U.S.

FCC Commissioners agreed last year to issue proposed rulemakings for the new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and today’s action cements the program into place.  The FCC said the new program marks its “single biggest step to date to close the digital divide.”

The initial and largest phase of the program – up to $16 billion – will kick off later this year and award to service providers through a reverse auction funding to bring 25/3 Mbps broadband service to U.S. census blocks that are entirely unserved by fixed broadband services at that service speed level.  The agency estimates those census blocks are home to about six million rural homes and businesses.

The second phase of the program will target census blocks that are now only partially served by providers offering 25/3 Mbps broadband speed.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.