MN PUC will hold prehearing conference on LTD Broadband’s ETC designation

I feel like today’s news is really just an addendum to yesterday’s post (MTA & MREA submit a petition to the MN PUC to suspect LTD Broadband’s ETC designation while considering revocation). The follow up is that a prehearing conference has been set for April 24 and the Institute for Local Self Reliance has submitted a file a notice of appearance.

MTA & MREA submit a petition to the MN PUC to suspect LTD Broadband’s ETC designation while considering revocation

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…

Introduction

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.

Petition to certify

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
ETC Area.

MN PUC prehearing conference on LTD Broadband ETC eligibility moved to March 13

This is a continuing story. Many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.)

The prehearing conference has been moved from March 6 to March 13…

The Commission Staff’s request is GRANTED. The prehearing conference scheduled for March 6, 2023, is CANCELLED.

A prehearing conference will be held by telephone on March 13, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. to review the status of the case. At that time, please call 1-877-304-9269 and when prompted enter passcode 406954#.

Update on MN PUC LTD Broadband situation – no update from FCC

This is an ongoing saga that many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.)

The latest update is a letter from LTD Broadband reporting that they have asked the FCC to reconsider their decision…

LTD Broadband submitted an Application for Reconsideration (AFR) to the FCC on September 8, 2022. As of February 1, 2023 this application remains pending and the FCC has taken no action

MN PUC notes on LTD Broadband situation: stayed ruling, ILSR may intervene, LTD counsel withdraws

This is an ongoing saga that many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.)

Here’s the latest update

LTD requested that this matter be stayed pending LTD’s appeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) denial of its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) long-form application. Minnesota Telecom Alliance (MTA) and Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) (together, Petitioners), the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Office of the Attorney General-Residential Utilities Division argue that this matter should proceed to hearing. The parties filed letters in support of their respective positions and the record on the parties’ requests closed on October 18, 2022, the date the last letter was filed.

On January 18, 2023, the MN PUC decided…

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT: 1. These proceedings are STAYED pending a ruling by FCC on LTD’s appeal of the denial of its long-form application. 2. LTD shall serve and file a status report every 120 days beginning on February 1, 2023. 3. A prehearing conference will be held by telephone on March 6, 2023, at 2:30 p.m. to review the status of the case. A

They also decided (also Jan 18) …

On September 16, 2022, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) filed a Motion to Intervene (Motion). LTD filed an objection to the Motion on September 23, 2022. Based on all the files and proceedings of the matter, the Administrative Law Judge makes the following: [185245/1] 2 ORDER 1. The Motion of Institute for Local Self-Reliance is GRANTED. 2. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is admitted to this proceeding as a full party. 3. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance will file a Notice of Appearance at its earliest convenience but in no event later than January 27, 2023.

And on January 19, Taft et al withdrew as LTD Broadband’s Counsel

Please take notice that as of January 19, 2023, and pursuant to Minn. R. 1400.5700, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP hereby withdraws as counsel for LTD Broadband, LLC. LTD Broadband, LLC’s address is PO Box 3064, Blooming Prairie, MN 55917 and its phone number is (507) 369-2669.

Commerce asks PUC to order improvements to CenturyLink service

From the Minnesota Commerce Department

Prompted by continuing service complaints from Minnesota consumers, the Department of Commerce last week filed a brief asking the Public Utilities Commission to order telephone service provider CenturyLink to submit plans to fix a pattern of service deficiencies and to upgrade processes for responding to outages.

PUC rules require CenturyLink and other landline phone providers to maintain adequate service levels. In its brief, Commerce emphasized that CenturyLink has reduced investment in equipment maintenance even as the company’s own data show service has deteriorated.

“Despite these obligations, the company has failed to maintain its plant and equipment consistent with adequate service by several measures, resulting in harm to CenturyLink’s customers, including many elderly and vulnerable customers who rely on dependable landline service,” Commerce said in the brief.

Commerce’s filing Friday follows its August recommendation that the PUC appoint an administrative law judge to convene hearings and solicit comments from CenturyLink customers. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Communications Workers of America, a union representing many CenturyLink workers, joined that recommendation.

More detail…

Earlier this month, Commerce filed a complaint with the PUC after CenturyLink failed to reimburse 150 Minneapolis customers after a two-week phone outage, as the commission’s rules require. Its filing last week said customer complaints have increased significantly since 2019 and that CenturyLink is violating a requirement to restore service within 24 hours after most outage reports. “The Department’s ongoing investigation into CenturyLink’s performance has exposed serious service quality deficiencies.”

Commerce asked the PUC to give CenturyLink 45 days to explain how it will improve its responses to outages and 90 days to submit a plan to fix maintenance concerns.

OPPORTUNITY: MN PUC is looking for members

The Secretary of State reports…

The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State today released notice of vacancies for various state boards, councils and committees that are accepting applications. Minnesotans are encouraged to apply and serve in demonstration of public service. The newest vacancies are listed below, and the full list of 792 vacancies / 1312 positions can be found on our website Open Positions.

Applications may be submitted online, and must be submitted within 21 days of the “Publish Date” listed on our Open Positions page, to be assured of full consideration by the appointing authority. Appointing authorities may choose to review applications received by the Secretary of State after the 21 day application period.

One open position is at the Public Utilities Commission

Web Site

Supporting Entity/Enabling Legislation Supported by Public Utilities Commission

ENABLING LEGISLATION
MS 216, 216A, 216B, 216E, 216F, 216G, 216H, & 237
Enabled: 08-01-1980

Note: It also looks like there’s a opening in the Broadband Task Force but that has actually been filled.

MN Attorney General, MTA and MREA and Taft law chime in on MN PUC’s investigation into LTD Broadband

This is an ongoing saga that many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.) I have been tracking new documents posted to the PUC site. The latest is a letter from Taft Law supporting LTD’s request to wait until after the conclusion of LTD’s appeal of the FCC’s denial of its RDOF long-form application to address their ETC status. They do this by recapping what has happened in PUC offices in other states. The PUC has received some reactions to that request…

 

MN Attorney General Keith Ellison says…

The Office of the Attorney General—Residential Utilities Division (“OAG”) files this supplemental letter pursuant to Ms. Severson’s October 14, 2022 email stating that all parties may file additional responses or supplemental information by 4:30 today. This letter responds to the letter submitted earlier today by LTD Broadband LLC (“LTD” or “Company”).

LTD claims that the OAG’s concerns that the Company could receive support before it is thoroughly vetted, that Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) support could flow prematurely to the Company, and that it could be three years before the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) or the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“Commission”) could act if that occurred are unfounded. LTD claims are inaccurate and warrant a further response.

First, it is the Commission, not the FCC that is responsible for determining whether LTD should receive an eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) designation, or in this case have its designation revoked. If the Commission determines that LTD is not able to meet its RDOF commitments in Minnesota and revokes LTD’s expanded ETC designation, any decision by the FCC is moot; LTD would no longer be eligible to receive RDOF support even if the FCC Bureau[1]level decision is overturned.

Second, even if the OAG has six-to-eight weeks’ notice before LTD’s long-form application is approved and the “ready to authorize” Public Notice issues, once an ETC receives “ready to authorize” status, there is no delay in disbursement of support. Rather, the Public Notice states that, upon its issuance, “the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is authorized and directed to take the steps necessary to disburse from the Universal Service Fund the amounts identified in” the Public Notice and to disburse the support in “120 monthly payments, which will begin at the end of [the] month.” It defies logic for LTD to suggest that six-to-eight weeks would be sufficient time to take the appropriate next steps to determine whether the Company’s expanded ETC designation should be revoked prior to “LTD actually receiv[ing] RDOF support.” Once RDOF support is disbursed, it is very difficult to recover. Thus, it is vital that discovery commence and the contested case be conducted “expeditiously,” as requested by the Commission in its referral order.

Third, it is entirely accurate to say that it could be three years before the Commission or the FCC could act to stop the flow of RDOF support to LTD. This is because the FCC’s rules do not require LTD to provide the Commission with any information about whether the Company is meeting its FCC-mandated network buildout requirements until the third year that LTD receives RDOF support. And consumers, to the extent they have concerns about LTD’s performance, will not raise their concerns with the FCC or USAC, nor would the FCC or USAC likely be the ones to address them. As the entity tasked with designating and certifying ETCs, that task falls to the Commission. Indeed, the instructions to the annual certification form for RDOF recipients states that “[i]f USAC believes there may be a violation or potential violation of a statute or a Commission regulation, rule, or order, [the ETC’s] form may be referred to the Federal, state, or local agency responsible for investigating, prosecuting, enforcing, or implementing the statute, rule, regulation, or order.”

The MTA and MREA say (in part)…

This letter is submitted in response to the letter filed on behalf of by LTD Broadband, LCC (“LTD”) on October 13, 2022.

Petitioners agree with the Department of Commerce (“Department”) and Office of Attorney General (“OAG”)1 that LTD’s request for stay should be denied and this proceeding be conducted expeditiously as the Commission has ordered. 2 As the Department and OAG stated, the Nebraska and South Dakota decisions actually “highlight why the Minnesota proceeding should continue.” Those two decisions preserved a status quo in which LTD is currently not eligible for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) support. As a result, the Nebraska and South Dakota decisions protect the public interest in those states from the negative consequences of a possible reversal of the FCC’s decision to deny LTD’s long form.

The opposite is true in Minnesota. In Minnesota, a stay would allow LTD to obtain RDOF funding in the event of an FCC reversal before the Commission would have an opportunity to determine whether it should revoke the Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (“ETC”) designation LTD needs to qualify for this RDOF funding.

The Commission initiated this proceeding out of concern (based on information presented by Petitioners and other commentors) that LTD would not be capable of delivering on its RDOF commitments to provide broadband to over 102,000 unserved locations in Minnesota. The purpose of the proceeding was to reexamine whether LTD qualifies for the ETC designation which is a precondition to receiving RDOF funding. Given the importance of the decision and its potential effects, the Commission wanted the proceeding completed “expeditiously.” 3

Staying this proceeding would frustrate the Commission’s intent and could lead to severe and irreversible harm to the public interest that this proceeding was initiated to protect. Approval of RDOF support for LTD in Minnesota would significantly reduce Minnesota’s share of approximately $41.5 billion in new federal broadband funding under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (“BEAD”) program. 4 Each state’s share of this BEAD funding will be “distributed primarily based on the relative number of “unserved” locations … in each State and Territory.”5 If the FCC were to reverse its decision as to LTD in Minnesota, LTD’s 102,000 Minnesota locations would no longer be considered unserved.6 These locations are a very substantial share of Minnesota’s unserved locations. As a result, Minnesota’s BEAD funding would be proportionately and substantially reduced.7

Taft Law (LTD Broadband) says…

Pursuant to Ms. Severson’s October 14, 2022 email stating that all parties may file additional responses or supplemental information by 4:30 today, I write to provide a brief response to statements made in the October 14, 2022 letter jointly submitted by the Department of Commerce and the OAG (“Department/OAG Letter”).

The Department/OAG Letter expresses concern that LTD could receive RDOF support before it is “thoroughly vetted,” that RDOF support could “flow prematurely” to LTD, and that it “could be three years” before the Commission or FCC could act if that occurred. Those concerns are unfounded.

First, RDOF support cannot flow to LTD until and unless LTD is successful in challenging the FCC staff decision denying LTD’s long-form application. If LTD is successful in doing so, and the FCC grants LTD’s long-form application, that will mean that LTD has been “thoroughly vetted” by the FCC and that RDOF support is not “flowing prematurely” to LTD.

Second, it is important to understand the chronology of the process. If and when LTD successfully challenges the FCC staff decision, and assuming the FCC’s process that has been consistently applied, then the FCC will issue a “Public Notice” saying it is “ready to authorize” support, subject to LTD submitting a letter of credit and bankruptcy opinion letter within a few weeks thereafter. Once LTD submits these documents, the FCC will issue another Public Notice stating that LTD is “authorized” to receive RDOF funding. That generally happens the second week of each month. The soonest any support would be wired from the FCC to LTD would be the last business day of the month. So if and when LTD’s appeal is successful, there would still be plenty of time—around six to eight weeks—for the parties in this proceeding to regroup and determine next steps before LTD actually receives any RDOF support. The Department and OAG have repeatedly suggested that there would be a risk of imminent harm if the FCC staff decision is reversed—the chronology above demonstrates why that concern is significantly overstated. As I stated at our previous conferences, LTD would agree to provide periodic updates to you and the parties regarding the status of LTD’s application for review. Third, it is an exaggeration to say that it could be three years before the Commission or FCC could act to stop the flow of RDOF support to LTD. Each year, the Commission will have the opportunity to review LTD’s compliance with ETC requirements—the 2022 review is just concluding. See Commission Docket No. P999/PR-22-8. In addition, if the FCC, USAC, Commission, a party to this proceeding, or even an LTD customer identified a truly urgent concern relating to LTD’s compliance with the RDOF and ETC requirements, the FCC and USAC could act to temporarily suspend the flow of support. Indeed, USAC and the FCC have done so where, for example, a letter of credit lapses.

LTD Broadband asks MN PUC to hold off on decisions on ETC designation based on other states’ actions

This is an ongoing saga that many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.) I have been tracking new documents posted to the PUC site. The latest is a letter from Taft Law supporting LTD’s request to wait until after the conclusion of LTD’s appeal of the FCC’s denial of its RDOF long-form application to address their ETC status. They do this by recapping what has happened in PUC offices in other states…

I write to provide a brief update on activity in other states that you should know about as you continue to consider how to proceed in this matter. As you know, LTD’s position is that all litigation activity before you should be stayed until the conclusion of LTD’s appeal of the FCC’s denial of its RDOF long-form application. Two recent orders support LTD’s request.

As was referred to in passing at one or both of the previous conferences in this matter, LTD has been engaged in proceedings before other state public utility commissions concerning its eligibility as an eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) in those states for purposes of receiving RDOF funding. Indeed, the main basis for the MTA’s May 22, 2022 Petition was activity before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (“SD PUC”). See Petition at 2, 4, 6, 15-21.

Recent developments in two of those state commission proceedings support LTD’s request for a stay in this matter. First, on September 26, 2022, the Clerk of the Nebraska Supreme Court and Court of Appeals stayed an appellate proceeding in which LTD was challenging the denial, by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, of LTD’s ETC status in that state (the “Nebraska Stay Order”). A copy of the Nebraska Stay Order is attached. It provides that the Nebraska appellate proceeding is stayed pending resolution of LTD’s appeal of the FCC staff’s decision, and it requires LTD’s counsel to provide an update if the FCC appeal is not complete by January 21, 2023. The spirit of the Nebraska Stay Order is consistent with LTD’s request in this proceeding—it recognizes that having dual proceedings go forward at the same time would be unnecessarily duplicative and expensive.

Then, on October 12, 2022, the SD PUC issued an order closing LTD’s ETC docket there (“SD Order”). A copy is attached. In March 2022, the SD PUC denied LTD’s request for ETC designation for purposes of RDOF funding. LTD filed a Petition for Reconsideration or Rehearing. As described in the SD Order, that request was still pending as of August 10, 2022 when the FCC staff denied LTD’s long-form application. In light of the FCC staff decision, LTD requested that the South Dakota docket be suspended, and the South Dakota Telecommunications Association (“SDTA”) requested that the docket be closed. Yesterday, in the SD Order, the SD PUC granted the SDTA’s motion, closing the docket. But LTD still has an opportunity to file a motion to re-open the proceeding as new developments occur, for example if LTD wins its appeal of the FCC staff’s decision. See, e.g., In re Brookings Muni. Util. d/b/a Swiftel Comms. for Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier, Order Reopening Docket, Docket No. TC04-213, 2007 WL 8674044 (So. Dak. Pub. Utils. Comm’n, Sept. 18, 2007) (reopening docket to adjust compliance filing dates). Notably, one of the SD PUC Commissioners specifically stated at the Commission meeting that such a motion could be filed, indicating that the effect of the SD Order was to simply stop the proceedings until and unless LTD’s appeal of the FCC’s decision is successful. So the SD Order is consistent with LTD’s request to you.

LTD Broadband responds to ILSR’s participation in PUC case

This is an ongoing saga that many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.)

In early September, the PUC asked LTD to share their long form RDOF application. They also invited folks to send comments (by Sep 16) in advance of a prehearing conference call planned for Sep 20. Several folks did response including the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

Here’s LTD’s response to ILSR’s offer to act as proposed intervenor…

LTD Broadband, LLC (“LTD”) respectfully objects to the Motion to Intervene filed by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (“ILSR”) because ILSR has not met the standard set forth in Minn. R. 1400.6200. ILSR’s Motion does not make the showings required by that rule, and ILSR has also failed to demonstrate that its alleged interests will not be adequately represented by other parties to this proceeding such as the Minnesota Department of Commerce (“Department”) or the Office of the Attorney General—Residential Utilities Division (“OAG[1]RUD”). Under Minn. R. 1400.6200, subp. 1., a person who desires to intervene in a contested case proceeding must submit a petition that meets four requirements: the petition “[1] shall show how the petitioner’s legal rights, duties, or privileges may be determined or affected by the contested case; [2] shall show how the petitioner may be directly affected by the outcome or that petitioner’s participation is authorized by statute, rule, or court decision; [3] shall set forth the grounds and purposes for which intervention is sought; and [4] shall indicate petitioner’s statutory right to intervene if one should exist.” If the petition makes these showings, it should be granted “unless the judge finds that the petitioner’s interest is adequately represented by one or parties participating in the case.” Minn. R. 1400.6200, subp. 3. ILSR’s Motion fails to make the required showings.

The response is longer but continues in the same theme. This is the tactic that LTD Broadband took in the live meeting at the PUC earlier this year too. They focus on the formalities of the process rather than addressing the issues of the case.

Representative Dave Lislegard asks MN PUC to revoke LTD Broadband’s ETC designation

I’ve been tracking what’s happening with MN PUC looking into revoking LTD Broadband’s expanded ETC designation (get background). The latest development is that Representative Dave Lislegard sent a letter to the MN PUC…

I’m writing to encourage the Public Utilities Commission to revoke LTD Broadband’s expanded ETC designation and to expedite the proceeding.

Update on MN PUC looking to revoke ETC designation for LTD Broadband – ILSR proposed intervenor

A brief update on an online Minnesota broadband saga.

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.)

In early September, the PUC asked LTD to share their long form RDOF application. They also invited folks to send comments (by Sep 16) in advance of a prehearing conference call planned for Sep 20.

The Institute for Local Self Reliance responded as a proposed intervenor

  1. The applicant, Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a research and advocacy nonprofit organization with offices in Minnesota, focused on building an American economy driven by local priorities. ILSR works with a diverse group of allies, partners, and local communities on policies to improve local Internet access. ILSR represents the interests of local communities that are not necessarily represented by any other part in the proceeding and has a statutory right to intervene pursuant to Minn. R. 1400.6200 (2021).

  2. ILSR can provide facts and insight as well as extensive contextual information related to broadband access, funding, and deployment in Minnesota.

  3. We recognize the petition against LTD Broadband’s expansion in Minnesota as an opportunity to advocate for the public interest and ensure that valuable public dollars are spent in a way that will bring quality, affordable connectivity to communities as soon as possible. The applicant hereby requests it be allowed to intervene as a party in the above-captioned proceeding.

Update on MN PUC looking into LTD Broadband – movements forward

Last week, I mentioned that the Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.)

Last week, the PUC asked LTD to share their long form RDOF application. They also invited folks to send comments (by Sep 16) in advance of a prehearing conference call planned for Sep 20. So afar a Lawyer from Moss and Barnett sent a– Nondisclosure Agreement – Trade Secret Information for Richard J. Johnson relating to the Protective Order issued September 1, 2022 and enclosed a Certificate of Service. The document highlights the folks who will have access to the long form application.

Not much news but it looks like there is movement forward.

Update on LTD Broadband hearings at MN PUC – next meeting scheduled for September 10

In July, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) held a hearing to decide whether or not to look into revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. The designation was important because their ability to receive a large amount ($311 million) was in part dependent on having the designation. They decided to move forward. In August, the FCC rejected LTD’s application for the federal funds based on numerous reasons. So the big question was whether the PUC would continue on with its investigation or not. They did.

 

August 24, the PUC heard from interested parties and have decide to ask for materials from LTD, give folks an opportunity to respond and to meet again (via phone) on September 20…

  1. LTD shall serve and file the long-form application, related correspondence, and attachments by August 26, 2022.
  2. Parties wishing to intervene in this proceeding must file their requests by 4:30 p.m. on September 16, 2022.
  3. A prehearing conference will be held by telephone on September 20, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. to review the status of the case, define the issues and set the dates for hearing. At that time, please call 1-866-705-2554 and when prompted enter passcode 406954.
    Dated: September 1, 202

MinnPost looks at the PUC’s decision to investigate LTD Broadband

More mainstream media on the situation with LTD Broadband and the Minnesota PUC from MinnPost

The embattled telecom company LTD Broadband has been stopped from building subsidized high-speed internet infrastructure in several states. Now, LTD might be in trouble in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Thursday ordered an investigation of LTD to determine if they should block the small company from using a whopping $311 million in federal money for construction of broadband in Minnesota’s rural areas amid fierce criticism alleging LTD can’t deliver fiber internet as promised.

“We don’t want to get a situation where they claim they have ability to build out and they get out there and they can’t do it – scrambling for more assets and then all of the sudden it just collapses,” Commissioner John Tuma, a Republican, said in an interview following the PUC’s hearing.

They include a perspective from LTD…

Corey Hauer, the company’s CEO, has told MinnPost it can expand rapidly and has simply figured out how to deploy fiber-optic cable easier, faster and cheaper than aggrieved competitors. Hauer characterized the regulatory filing as a nuisance.

On Thursday, Andrew Carlson, an attorney for LTD, told the PUC the company is in good standing in Minnesota. He said reopening its state credentials would set a dangerous precedent allowing critics to continually question their process and force investigations “anytime any other competitor has complaints or concerns or just competitive animus against” an eligible telecom provider. It could also jeopardize that FCC funding for Minnesota altogether, he said.

The plan moving forward…

The PUC largely ruled against LTD, ordering what’s known as a contested case hearing before an administrative law judge to take a closer look at the capability of the company. The commission did not cancel LTD Broadband’s status, but it decided to consider whether it should and seek more information, following recommendations from the AG’s office, the Minnesota Department of Commerce and a state task force on broadband policy.