The next chapter starts in the story of LTD Broadband and RDOF awards. It reads like a good soap opera for a very niche audience. The more you know, the more interesting it is. Here’s a high level recap akin to a TV series catch up…
LTD Broadband was awarded the sole opportunity apply for funding to expand fiber in much of Minnesota. The opportunity has been controversial. Some question their ability to fulfill the order, should they get it. To that end, Minnesota Telephone Alliance (MTA) and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, asking them to revoke the ETC status for LTD Broadband. Earlier this month, the PUC posted replies they received on the request.
Today they have posted the staff analysis and announced a meeting on July 14. Here are the details:
Thursday, July 14, 2022
Large Hearing Room, 121 7th Pl E, Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101 AND Online via WebEx, See attached instructions
There’s a push to get people in the room or on the Webex if you have any concerns. There are four agenda items; LTD is third. But I’m pretty sure the building is airconditioned and has wifi so maybe worth the drive.
The staff analysis highlights a few points: the FCC may drop LTD without the hearing, RDOF investment is $311 million, which may not be reinvested in MN is out and LTD doesn’t think the PUC has authority to make a decision…
There are several things the Commission may wish to consider in determining how this matter should proceed. First, the OAG made several key points in comments and reply comments. The OAG pointed out there is the possibility of the FCC denying LTD’s long-form application. If this were to occur during the pendency of this proceeding, this proceeding would be rendered moot. Even if the record in this proceeding suggests the Commission not revoke LTD’s RDOF ETC designation, LTD will not be eligible to receive RDOF funds.34 This suggests that this proceeding might be premature.
Additionally, in the event the Commission determines that LTD’s RDOF ETC designation should be revoked, this RDOF Phase I support ($311 million) will not automatically be redistributed to Minnesota RDOF ETCs. As the FCC has done in the past, the funds will likely be rolled into a new RDOF Phase I auction or into the RDOF Phase II auction.35 As such, the Commission should proceed with caution regarding this matter.
Finally, LTD raises the question of Commission jurisdiction over carriers in circumstances such as LTD Broadband (non-certificated voice over internet protocol (“VOIP”) providers). …
LTD argued that these rules are not applicable to carriers such as LTD. These rules apply only to providers operating under a certificate of authority. LTD also argued that the Commission’s June 3, 2021, LTD Expansion Order acknowledged that its oversight of LTD arises from delegated authority under federal law rather than state law.
And here’s the distillation of the decision options that I suspect they will discuss at the July 14 meeting:
Should the Commission initiate a proceeding to consider revoking LTD Broadband LLC expanded ETC designation, which was granted in the Commission’s June 3, 2021, Order Approving Petition for ETC Designation in Certain Census Blocks?
- Open a proceeding to determine whether there is cause to revoke the ETC designation of LTD (Petitioners, Department, and OAG), or
- Decline to open a proceeding (LTD).
[If the Commission selects decision option 1, also select a type of procedure in decision options 3-5 and a schedule in decision options 8-10.]
What type of procedure should be used?
- Refer the matter to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) with the request that proceedings provide for discovery, the cross-examination of expert witnesses, and be conducted expeditiously (LTD and Department), or
- Initiate an expedited proceeding pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 237.61 for record development (Petitioners), or
[If the Commission selects decision option 4, also select a type of expedited proceeding in decision options 5–6.]
What type of expedited proceedings should be used, and should it include party crossexamination?
- Designate a sub-committee of Commissioners under Minn. Stat. §216A.03, subd. 8 (Petitoners), [if selected, also select a sub-option], a. with party cross-examination, or b. without party cross-examination. Or
- Designate a lead Commissioner under Minn. Stat. § 216A.03, subd. 9 (Petitioners) [if selected, also select a sub-option] a. with party cross-examination, or b. without party cross-examination. What schedule should be used?
- Delegate scheduling to the administrative law judge (ALJ), designated lead commissioner, or subcommittee of commissioners (Department), or
- adopt one of the schedules proposed by the petitioners (Petitioners), or
- adopt the schedule proposed by LTD (LTD).
Should the Commission order LTD to submit its FCC RDOF long form application to the Commission?
- Require LTD to provide its long form application to the Commission, Department of Commerce, Attorney General’s Office and Petitioners subject to the terms of an approved Protective Order(Petitioners, Department, and OAG), or
- Do not require LTD to provide its long form application to the Commission (LTD). Should the Commission address LTD’s certification for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) funding in 2023?
- Do not address LTD’s certification for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) funding in 2023 (LTD, Department, and OAG), or
- Decline to certify LTD for 2023 funding (Petitioners).