The top dollar winner was LTD Broadband LLC of Las Vegas, which won rights to $1.3 billion to extend fiber-optic cable to rural communities scattered over 15 states, in some cases beating out local competitors.
LTD has since missed deadlines to be certified by local regulators in six of the 15 states, prompting the FCC to block the company’s access to the broadband funds there. At least 275,000 people live in affected areas of those states, census and FCC data show.
LTD asked the FCC for more time to be certified, but the agency denied that request. LTD is appealing the FCC’s decision in four of the six states.
In nine other states, FCC officials are still reviewing LTD’s ability to do the job, even though the agency has authorized more than 300 other bidders to move forward.
Corey Hauer, LTD’s chief executive officer, blamed the missed deadlines on bad advice and actions by an outside lawyer. He said LTD has begun building fiber networks even without the federal funds and expressed optimism that officials will reconsider.
Some commentary on why the auction was held as it was…
FCC officials said they designed the auction to maximize upfront participation.
“You want an open process so that new entrants can come in and compete,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who was part of the Republican FCC majority that enacted rules for the auction.
Mr. Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC’s new Democratic chairwoman, both said they would support reviewing the front-end requirements for future broadband programs.
LTD is now undergoing post-auction vetting, a process Ms. Rosenworcel said is used to “weed out nonqualified bidders.”
The next round of federal broadband funds will be managed not by the FCC, but by states and the U.S. Commerce Department, who are jointly empowered to choose projects that will receive $42.5 billion for broadband deployment program in last year’s infrastructure bill.
The problem is that post-auction vetting is like your brother calling “ever dibs” on the last piece of cake in the fridge; if he isn’t going to eat, the cake will just spoil. LTD was by definition the only bidder allowed to submit long form proposals in many areas. That leaves those communities hostage and in the end, if LTD can’t meet the requirements, the money will be lost to the state.