When last we left our heroes at the PUC, they had decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. Then the prehearing conference was moved from March 6 to March 13, 2023. But as of today there is more news; MTA and MREA are asking the PUC to suspend LTD Broadband’s ETC status while they are under consideration for ETC revocation. It seems to make sense, especially in terms of reducing the chances of replaying the RDOF situation where LTD got exclusive access to federal funds, was disqualified and now those fund will not be invested in Minnesota (at least not in the same way).
Today, the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and Minnesota Rural Electric Association submitted a petition to initiate a proceeding to revoke the expanded eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) designation of LTD Broadband LLC (“LTD”) and deny LTD’s funding certification for 2023. Not all of the documents have been made public (due to trade secrets) but here’s the high level info…
Enclosed via e-Filing, please find the Motion to Certify and the Motion to Suspend ETC Designation (with attachments), including both Public and Highly Confidential Trade Secret versions of the Motion to Suspend and attachments (Declarations of Larry Thompson and Kristine Szabo) on behalf of Minnesota Telecom Alliance and Minnesota Rural Electric Association in the above-entitled docket. Minn. R. 1400.600 provides that, should other parties wish to contest a motion, they must file a written response with the judge and serve copies on all parties, within ten working days after the motion is received.
The Minnesota Telecom Alliance (“MTA”) and Minnesota Rural Electric Association (“MREA”) (“Petitioners”) hereby respectfully request that, pursuant to Minn. R. 1400.7600; the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”):
(1) Certify to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (the “Commission”) both the Stay granted in the Third Prehearing Order dated January 18, 20231 (“Stay Order”) and the Petitioners’ March 29, 2023 Motion to Suspend the Expanded ETC Designation of LTD Broadband LLC (“LTD”) (“Motion to Suspend”), and
(2) Require parties to respond to this Motion to Certify within 10 working days after it is received if they wish to contest this Motion to Certify. 2
Both the Stay Order and Motion to Suspend relate to the effects and ramifications of the Federal Communication Commission’s (“FCC’s”) decision to deny LTD’s long-form application. As the Stay Order recognizes, and as explained below, it would be appropriate for the Commission to address these matters and provide guidance.3
There are more details. And there are public documents available Part 1 Motion to Suspend and Attachments – Public.pdf and Part 2 Motion to Suspend and Attachments – Public.pdf; as well as documents that aren’t available to the public.
As with so many legal documents and arguments, lots of time is spent addressing the formalities that aren’t as important to the average reader, but here’s a section that I think gets to the root of the need…
A final determination by the Commission on the Motion to Suspend would materially advance the ultimate termination of the hearing.
Minnesota Rule 1400.7600(B) directs consideration of:
[W]hether a final determination by the agency on the motion would materially advance the ultimate termination of the hearing….
The Stay Order provides that the contested case hearing process will not resume until the FCC makes a ruling on LTD’s appeal of the denial of its long-form.5 As explained in the Motion to Suspend, deferring action on LTD’s ETC designation until the FCC makes that ruling would expose the over 160,000 Minnesotans in LTD’s Expanded ETC Area to the loss of substantial federal BEAD and Minnesota BTB funding if the FCC Bureau’s decision is reversed, as LTD has
requested. As also explained in the Motion to Suspend, the Commission would not have the time or ability to prevent such a reversal from leading to ineligibility for these funds.
The Stay Order assumed that the Commission could act to correct problems regarding the use of RDOF support after the FCC rules, stating:
In addition, there will be a window, at least six weeks, for the parties in this proceeding to reconvene to decide next steps if the FCC does reverse course.6
Unfortunately, the ineligibility trigger for the BEAD and the Minnesota BTB programs is FCC authorization for RDOF support. There is no provision in the BEAD processes for subsequent corrective action by the Commission if the FCC authorizes RDOF support. This combination leaves Minnesotans in the unserved locations encompassed by LTD’s expanded ETC designation at great risk of the Commission being unable to meet its obligations to protect their interests if the FCC reverses the FCC Bureau decision. Moreover, the mere possibility of reversal will likely discourage potential applicants from seeking BEAD or BTB funding for locations in Expanded