On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a rural broadband funding initiative. The new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will help finance the deployment of high-speed broadband networks in rural America.

Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over 10 years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas. The FCC says the effort will connect millions more American homes and businesses to broadband.

The first phase of the effort will begin later this year and target census blocks that are wholly unserved with fixed broadband at speeds of at least 25/3 megabits per second. This phase would make available up to $16 billion to census blocks where existing data shows there is no such service available.

The second phase of the program will make available at least $4.4 billion to target partially served areas, census blocks where some locations lack access to 25/3 megabits per second broadband.