When it comes to bringing FTTH in underserved areas in rural America, we’ve typically seen familiar players like telephone companies and internet service providers leading the charge. There’s a new kid on the block though—electric coops—and they’ve recently snapped up more than a billion dollars of FTTH business over the next ten years via the RDOF.
What is the RDOF?
The RDOF, which stands for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, is an auction set up by the Federal Communications Commission. Its purpose is to fund the deployment of high-speed broadband internet to rural areas in the United States, which are either partially or entirely lacking such services.
Phase I, which kicked off in October 2020, is aimed at targeting rural areas where broadband of at least 25/ Mbps is entirely missing. Phase II, which begins several years from now, will target rural areas that are partially serviced by high-speed broadband.
What’s the Scope of Opportunity with the RDOF?
In Phase I of the RDOF, the FCC awarded a staggering $9.2 billion dollars to providers who successfully bid to bring high-speed broadband to areas available in the auction. This amounts to bringing broadband to 5.2 million homes in 49 states over the next 10 years.
Upon breaking down the bids, the FCC estimates that 99.7% of these locations will receive broadband of at least 100/20 Mbps, while more than 85% will receive gigabit broadband.
How Electric Coops are Set to Bring FTTH in a Big Way
In Phase I of the RDOF, there were 108 winning bidders who received auction support and they included the usual mix of cable providers and telecom companies. Interestingly, electric coops were also among the winning bidders, including Conexon, a consortium of nearly 200 electric coops, was awarded $1.3 billion to deploy FTTH in rural areas across 22 different states.
Key Advice for Electric Coops and Electrical Contractors
For electric coops and electrical contractors that are entering the FTTH game for the first time, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact FTTH doesn’t stop at the door.
While bringing fiber to the home is certainly more than half the battle, the homes of today and tomorrow require those fiber connections to be properly brought into and distributed throughout the home via dedicated media panels and Ethernet access points.
For instance, as the average number of connected devices in a home rise at an alarming rate, the battle for bandwidth means homes with structured wiring and Ethernet access points throughout are more future-ready than those that simply have a single fiber connection coming into the garage.