Southern Minnesota looks at impact of RDOF funding to LTD in rural Le Sueur, Steele and Waseca counties

Faribault Daily News reports on the RDOF award to LTD, especially in their area…

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission formally allocated $9.2 billion in rural broadband grants, with Minnesota receiving more than $400 million, the fourth largest of any state.

The biggest winner both nationally and in Minnesota was LTD Broadband. A Nevada-based company, LTD currently provides broadband service throughout the Upper Midwest through a network of more than 1,800 wireless towers covering more than 50,000 square miles. LTD’s service area is centered around southern Minnesota, but it stretches as far south as Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as far west as Huron, South Dakota, and as far north as Alexandria.

With the new grant funding in hand, LTD is set to dramatically expand its reach, entering into a dizzying array of new markets. In Minnesota alone, it’s set to reach more than 100,000 new customers.

A significant number of those new potential customers will be local. A map of the winners created by Cooperative Network Services shows LTD’s projects would dramatically expand fiber-optic coverage locally, especially in rural Le Sueur, Steele and Waseca counties. Rice County would see increased fiber-optic coverage as well, but in more limited areas. Richland Township in the county’s southeast corner is projected to be the project’s biggest beneficiary, but Shieldsville and Bridgewater townships will also benefit.

Statewide, LTD gobbled up more than three-quarters of funding, leaving little room for other providers. One exception was in Nicollet County, where Illinois-based Consolidated Communications picked up a small project near North Mankato and Texas-based AMG Technology Investment group got one funded near Nicollet.

They seem optimistic…

While he knew that the federal government was going to spend big on rural broadband, Rice County Commissioner Galen Malecha expressed surprise that such a large allocation was given to a company he hadn’t even heard of before the announcement.

“We were surprised a relatively unknown company got the majority of the money versus the providers that already exist within the county,” he said.

But cautious…

Still, whether or not the company will be able to achieve its huge promises is a fair question, and one that concerns Le Sueur County Administrator Darrell Pettis. While Pettis is familiar with LTD, he noted they traditionally provide only fixed wireless through the air, not fiber optic.

Pettis noted that completing much more modest fiber-optic installations on time has proven a challenge at times even for providers with a great deal of experience providing fiber-optic internet, like CenturyLink and Frontier Communications.

In a worst case scenario, LTD’s ambitious broadband expansion plans might not even make it that far. LTD’s proposal will be scrutinized in greater detail and could be rejected through the FCC’s Long Form application process, which is not even due until Feb. 15.

Should LTD’s plans fall through at one point or another, Pettis said that would leave the county in a tough spot because areas covered through the federal dollars take themselves out of the running for assistance through the state’s Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program.

This entry was posted in Funding, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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