More on MN PUC’s case on LTD Broadband: Dep of Commerce says suspend ETC – LTD disagrees

Yesterday I posted an update from the Minnesota PUC on the ongoing saga of LTD Broadband and the PUC looking into revoking their ETC status, a status they needed to get federal funding. (I went into greater details on the history yesterday.) Documents filed yesterday indicated that the Department of Commerce recommended the PUC continue looking into the revocation.

Today’s update, goes farther. This time the Department of Commerce recommends that the MN PUC also suspend LTD Broadband’s ETC designation during this time…

The Office of the Attorney General—Residential Utilities Division (“OAG”) files this Response in support of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s (“Petitioners”) Motion to Suspend ETC Designation (“Motion to Suspend”) and Motion to Certify. Granting the Motion to Suspend will protect ratepayers from being harmed if the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) reverses its decision to deny LTD Broadband, LLC’s (“LTD”) long-form application (“Application”) for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) funding by (1) ensuring RDOF money does not flow to LTD before the Commission determines whether LTD is capable of performing adequately, and (2) enabling other potential providers to seek federal funding to build out rural broadband service in the event LTD cannot deliver. Granting the Motion to Certify will allow the Commission to use its unique expertise to decide issues that could have important consequences for rural broadband development.

Today’s update also includes a response from LTD Broadband saying they disagree with the petitions to motion to suspend and motion to certify…

LTD Broadband, LLC (“LTD”), by its counsel and pursuant to Minn. R. 1400.6600, hereby responds to the “Motion to Certify” filed on March 29, 2023 by the Minnesota Telecom Alliance (“MTA”) and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (“MREA”) (together, the “Movants”)1 seeking to return this matter to the Commission for immediate consideration of a separate Motion to Suspend ETC Designation2 (“Motion to Suspend” and together with the “Motion to Certify,” the “Motions”) for certain areas in Minnesota.3 Together, the Motions seek to embroil the Commission in entirely unnecessary and potentially lengthy proceedings on the basis of speculation, inconsistent logic, and a fundamentally inaccurate characterization of the posture of LTD’s application for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) support before the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). The Motions are simply a backdoor attempt to extinguish arbitrarily LTD’s efforts to secure RDOF funding prior to any FCC action on LTD’s pending Application for Review4 in the speculative hope that such an outcome would result in MTA and MREA members obtaining funding under alternative programs in lieu of LTD – the same objective these parties have sought to attain by various means from the moment LTD submitted its application to expand its Minnesota ETC designation.

There has been no change in the circumstances of LTD’s Application for Review that led to the ALJ’s January 18, 2023 order staying the proceedings that the Commission delegated to him,5 and therefore no reason to change the posture of this case and require the state and LTD to expend considerable time and expense in a hearing that may be entirely unnecessary. Nor does the prospect of future broadband funding create an immediacy requiring that the current stay be lifted and the matter be turned back to the Commission. For these reasons, the Motion to Certify should be promptly denied and the present stay should remain in effect pending any further action by the FCC.

Here are their reasons, which they elaborate on in their remarks…

  • The Motions Misstate the Nature of the Relief the FCC May Grant in Ruling on LTD’s Application for Review.
  • The Motions Mount a Collateral Attack on the FCC’s Statutorily Mandated Obligation to Administer the Federal RDOF Program.
  • The Motions Inconsistently Rely Heavily Upon Initial FCC Staff Fact Finding While Unreasonably Disparaging the FCC’s Ability to Render Competently a Final Decision on LTD’s Ability to Meet Its RDOF Obligations.
  • Grant of the Motion to Certify and Further Consideration of the Motion to Suspend Would Squander Judicial and Administrative Resources.

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