The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is cracking down on operators who have backed out of their Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) commitments, fining 73 auction participants a total of $4.3 million for defaulting on their winning bids. One operator, LTD Broadband, alone accounted for more than half of the overall assessment.
In an order released late last week, the FCC slapped LTD Broadband with a $2.3 million fine for defaulting on 768 census block groups in Kansas and Oklahoma. The FCC last year denied the company’s request for more time to prove its eligibility to receive funding in those states.
LTD Broadband could face additional fines. The company has already requested waivers for several thousand census blocks spanning a number of additional states, including California, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. And it is still battling to secure the necessary state eligibility approvals in Iowa and Minnesota.
The FCC previously said it would consider waiving fines for bidders who could demonstrate why defaulting on their bids would serve the public interest, but did not guarantee it would do so. It noted its current fine notice does not include penalties for applicants who defaulted on bids in response to letters it sent last year flagging areas where support might be duplicative or otherwise unnecessary.
The regulator also hit Charter Communications with a total of $1.18 million for defaulting on bids in more than a dozen states. These include census blocks in Florida, for which it bid under the Bright House name; Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia; and California, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas, for which it bid under its Time Warner Cable subsidiary. It was fined the most for defaults in Indiana and South Carolina, which each had a penalty of $276,000.
“These defaults have put at risk the timely deployment of broadband access for many and necessitate this strong enforcement action,” Acting FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal stated.
In a separate statement, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks backed the move to hold bidders accountable and said he hopes other funding sources like the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program can help fill the gap left by the defaults.
This story originally listed Nextlink's fine as $6,000. The correct amount is $3,000.