Minnesota utility regulators Thursday approved an investigation into revoking a key permit for LTD Broadband, the big winner of a federal auction to provide broadband to rural areas.
Revocation of LTD’s telecommunications permit in Minnesota could result in the company — and the state — losing out on $311 million in federal broadband subsidies.
Trade groups for Minnesota telecom and rural electricity providers petitioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for the revocation investigation.
They say that since the PUC granted LTD the permit last year, several events have occurred in other states that call into question the company’s ability to deliver on its commitments — a claim LTD denies.
If you haven’t been watching this story play out, I think the thing that’s hard to understand is that losing the $311 million may be better than wasting it and not getting what communities need. The article touches on that point…
The Minnesota Department of Commerce and the state attorney general’s office both recommended that the PUC initiate the revocation investigation.
Sieben said she has some concern about whether LTD’s grant money “would come back to Minnesota” if the PUC revokes the company’s ETC status.
Kristin Berkland, an assistant Minnesota attorney general, said there is no guarantee it would come back to a Minnesota (broadband) provider.
But Berkland said it is just as dangerous for the $311 million to be rebid as it is for “commitments made for that money not being carried out.”
Four counties — all of which would host LTD projects — and the Minnesota Association of Townships have supported a revocation investigation. In PUC filings, they also said they’re concerned about LTD’s ability to live up to its commitments.
Some — including LeSueur County — have noted that areas covered by LTD’s federal grants in Minnesota haven’t been eligible for a big pot of state broadband subsidies. The state rejected LeSueur County’s bid for two broadband grants in early 2021 because they would’ve overlapped with LTD’s federal awards.