The Minnesota Telecom Alliance and the Iowa Communications Alliance have filed a joint petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking the agency to deny LTD Broadband’s long-form application that it submitted in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction.
LTD Broadband was the biggest winner in the RDOF auction, which wrapped up late last year. The RDOF auction was a reverse auction that awarded funding for broadband deployments in unserved areas to companies that committed to deploying service for the lowest level of support.
LTD Broadband is slated to receive $1.3 billion from the government if its long-form application is approved. With that funding, LTD Broadband is supposed to deploy broadband to unserved areas of 15 states. The company has pledged to provide gigabit speeds to those rural areas using a combination of fixed wireless access technology and fiber.
In the FCC petition, the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and the Iowa Communications Alliance claim that LTD Broadband’s long-form application provides no indication that the company has “the technical, engineering, financial, operational, management, staff, or other resources to meet RDOF’s build-out and services obligations with respect to the 21,908 census blocks (114,921 locations) that it won in Minnesota and Iowa.”
The petition further asserts that the burden of proof rests with LTD Broadband to demonstrate that it can meet the service obligations in return for the $311.9 million in RDOF support it is slated to receive in Minnesota and the $23.2 million it is slated to receive in Iowa.
“If LTD is not able to meet its buildout and service obligations for the RDOF I support that it has bid upon, over 100,000 rural Minnesota locations (102,005) and almost 13,000 rural Iowa locations (12,916) …. will be deprived of urgently needed high-speed broadband access for years,” the petition says.
The petition also notes that LTD Broadband currently doesn’t offer residential broadband speeds that are close to the RDOF gigabit service tier, which calls for 1 Gbps downstream and 500 Mbps upstream.
At deadline, LTD Broadband hadn’t responded to questions about this FCC petition. However, CEO Corey Hauer told FierceTelecom in February that the company believes it will be able to deploy fiber faster and more cost-effectively in rural areas because there isn’t as much existing infrastructure to worry about. In addition, he said the company will use two methods: in-the-ground and aerial fiber using existing infrastructure such as telephone wires.
It’s worth noting that members of both the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and the Iowa Communications Alliance currently provide network connectivity in Minnesota and Iowa by delivering fixed wireless, fiber, copper and cellular broadband services and they are likely to compete with LTD Broadband for customers once LTD deploys its services. In addition, some of the members are in the process of deploying fiber-based networks.