A look at comments submitted on MN PUC petition to look at LTD Broadband’s eligibility for funding

I just wrote about Doug Dawson’s take on the situation for LTD and the PUC and RDOF. I thought about adding this info – but to make it easier to find this info later, I decided to do two posts. But I’m going to borrow from Doug’s post for a quick background for new readers.

Minnesota Telephone Alliance and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association jointly filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, asking to revoke the ETC status for LTD Broadband. … The petition stems from LTD being the winner in the RDOF auction in Minnesota to receive $311 million to bring broadband to 102,000 passing in the state. In the RDOF filings, LTD promises to build fiber-to-the-premise to all of these passings. The petition contends that LTD can’t make the financial commitments to fulfill the RDOF pledge.

The PUC invited comments on the petition until June 1, 2022; now the reply comment period is open until June 8. Here is an annotated list of folks who submitted comments (links below go to their full response):

  • Institute for Local Self Reliance (national nonprofit research/advocacy group) – they support a proceeding to revoke ETC status. They are joined by League of Rural Voters and AARP-Minnesota. They give a detailed history of LTD and broadband in Minnesota, including offering context that LTD may be standing in the way of MN communities getting a share of the unprecedented funding coming from federal sources.
  • Le Sueur County – they support a proceeding to revoke the ETC status. They provide a frontline perspective noting that before the RDOF was announced, the County estimated FTTH would cost $12 million to build; LTD has bid closer to $1 million. That seems like a significant difference. They had a grant application in for State Border to Border funding for a project but it was rejected once LTD was awarded the opportunity to apply for RDOF money.
  • MN Attorney General Keith Ellison – they support a proceeding to revoke ETC status. They also say that LTD should share their RDOF long form submissions with the MN PUC. IN fact they suggestion that all RDOF ETCs share their forms. They recognize that while MN may lose the federal funding designated for LTD if the ETC is revoked; if it is not revoked the designated areas may find it difficult to get other funding, which holds them in a funding limbo.
  • Pine County – they offer recommendations that may speak more to the role of the FCC. They also talk about the difficulty is working to get ubiquitous broadband in the county when an outside vendor has a claim to funding for portions of the community and those claims have a 10 year hold if funds are received.
  • Minnesota Department of Commerce – they took a wait and see approach. They have detailed information and recommendations for what the PUC should consider. They say, “In response to the current proceeding, LTD should share its position and address the troubling allegations filed in the petition. Commerce will make recommendations to the Commission on whether to hold a proceeding and the nature of any possible proceeding in Reply Comments.”
  • LTD Broadband – they oppose the proceeding and cite legal aspects of the moving forward saying there is no legal basis for the petition and assert that broadband expansion through LTD Broadband is in the public interest.

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