Second-round CAF funding to help extend broadband to 600,000 homes

Telecom carriers have requested more than $385 million from the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF) to extend broadband service to as many as 600,000 homes and businesses in 44 states and Puerto Rico as part of the latest round CAF funding, the agency announced last week.

The amounts range from $11,000 for service to underserved areas in North Dakota to more than $30 million for Georgia. According to the FCC, about 15 million people in the United States, mostly located in rural areas, have no access to broadband Internet service.

The latest funding is the second round from Phase I of the Connect America Fund. The first round in Phase I funding, awarded in 2012, saw nearly $115 million provided to carriers to expand rural broadband in 37 states.

“Broadband is no longer a luxury, but is essential in today’s society to finding a job, getting an education, receiving quality health care, and staying connected with family and community,” said acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn in a press release announcing the funding. “This second round of support from the Connect America Fund will leverage private investment and connect hundreds of thousands of rural consumers and businesses to the robust broadband that other communities have long taken for granted.”

The Connect America Fund is the result of a reworking of the Universal Service Fund, which extended telephone service to rural areas in the 20th century. CAF is intended to bring the benefits of broadband to rural America and other markets where there would be insufficient financial incentive to deploy service otherwise. Connect America expands support for both broadband and voice without increasing universal service fees on consumers and businesses.

According to the FCC, the second round funding includes changes to incentivize private investment, improve program clarity and maximize deployment where consumers lack broadband.