Escape

Rural Jackson Countians and others who live or do business outside urban areas of the state and country may have renewed hope for a more robust build-out of the "middle mile" that would bring broadband access to their doorsteps.

The Federal Communications Commission opened the window Monday in a two-week application process for those who want to participate in what is described by the FCC as an auction to bid for the job in various places across the nation. They’ll have until March 30 to apply as a participation in the bidding process, and the auction begins July 24.

Jackson County, according to the FCC, has approximately 465 households in rural areas that need the service. That’s higher than all but five of the 55 Florida counties deemed eligible for build-out using a special fund set aside for rural areas. The FCC has compiled such estimates in all states for the counties within them that are eligible. The Connect America Fund supports the projects by way of supplements to the participating providers. It will make available up to $1.98 billion in support over the next 10 years to help build out access to as many as 1 million homes and small business in rural areas that lack an acceptable level of service.

Providers can apply at auctions.fcc.gov.

“This is a unique opportunity for broadband providers to expand their service,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “More important, this is a unique opportunity to bring digital opportunity to parts of rural America that have been bypassed by the broadband revolution. So I hope that all eligible providers will give this opportunity a hard look and choose to participate.”

The FCC says the auction “will provide opportunities for new and existing providers using a variety of technologies to compete for support, including phone companies, fixed wireless providers, satellite providers, cable companies, and rural electric utilities.”

Jackson is one of 55 Florida counties identified as areas eligible for projects using the build-out dollars. The four counties with higher numbers of households or businesses needing such service are: Polk (with 3,145); Levy (999); Santa Rosa (771); Washington (701) and Alachua (524).

Except for Washington County, and Walton (with 419), none of Jackson’s immediately surrounding areas have numbers nearly as high its own.

Bay has only 114 households and businesses in need, according to FCC’s numbers. Calhoun has just 40; Franklin has 42; Gadsden has 33; Liberty has 18; Gulf has 22; Holmes has 61; Leon has 91.

For more general information about the auction, visit www.fcc.gov/auction/903.

For more information on the Connect America Fund Phase II auction, visit https://www.fcc.gov/connect-america-fund-phase-ii-auction.

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