— Pai grabbed headlines Friday by unveiling a $20.4 billion “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” as part of a White House 5G event. But the fund, to be spent over a decade, is a rebranding of the FCC’s Connect America Fund program, which supports broadband deployment in hard-to-serve areas. The current funding term for the program ends in 2020, and Pai told reporters the rural fund will involve a “repurposing” of Connect America money. To get the subsidies, providers have had to offer broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps, but the new funding could be used to upgrade service to 25 Mbps.
— The FCC’s Democrats, who said they didn’t have details of the fund, expressed skepticism. “It looks to me like they are dressing up an old program in new, Trump-era clothes,” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said at the press conference following the FCC’s meeting Friday. “It doesn’t look like any new funding, but instead, same old, same old.”
— Commissioner Geoffrey Starks also said he wants to learn more. “It does seem to smell like something that is repackaging some of the money that we already have, because coming up with $20 billion from the FCC is not something that you just trip over.”
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech