The FCC said today that it is ready to authorize Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) winnings for Windstream and 11 other companies that were winning bidders in last year’s RDOF auction. LTD Broadband is not among them and the company got some bad RDOF news from the FCC.
The total value of the bids is $554 million. The auction tentatively awarded funding to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband to unserved rural areas. Winning bidders were those who committed to deploying service for an area at the lowest level of support.
The FCC declares RDOF funding “ready to authorize” after reviewing winning bidders’ long-form applications, which were submitted after completion of the auction. Companies on the new ready-to-authorize list then have two weeks to obtain a bankruptcy opinion letter and a letter of credit before receiving final authorization.
Windstream was one of the top 10 winning bidders in the auction. The other 11 companies on the new ready-to-authorize list are considerably smaller and include rural telecom providers, electric cooperatives and other small companies.
Windstream winning bids fill more than 60 of the 80 total pages that comprise the list. The FCC said it is ready to authorize Windstream winning bids in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio.
The FCC released at least two previous lists of companies whose RDOF winnings it was ready to authorize, and some of those companies have received full authorization. According to an FCC press release, the commission now has authorized or said it is ready to authorize funding totaling more than $1 billion of the $9.2 billion tentatively awarded in the auction.
Bad News for LTD Broadband
Most of the larger winning bidders are still waiting to appear on the ready-to-authorize list – and the largest winning bidder, LTD Broadband, received some bad RDOF related news from the FCC today. The commission said it would not extend the deadline for the company to receive eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status in North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.
Winning bidders are required to have ETC designation in states for which they won funding and the deadline to obtain that designation was June 7.
The commission took issue with the fact that LTD didn’t file with the public service commissions in the three states until five months after being advised of its winning bids. LTD Broadband had requested a waiver in these states, saying that it understood that the PSCs could issue ETC approvals within 30 days and its ETC filings were made 30 days before the deadline.
“[N]othing prevented the company from filing its applications well in advance of May to ensure that it obtained the required ETC designations before the June 7 deadline,” the FCC wrote in an order adopted today. The purpose of the June 7 deadline, the commission said, was “to encourage applicants to act diligently in order to allow the commission to move as quickly as possible toward disbursing critical universal service support. Every month of delay by LTD in seeking ETC designation amounts to another month of delay in satisfying that important public interest objective.”
LTD Broadband is finding itself shut out of more and more RDOF funding that it tentatively won. The FCC previously rejected LTD’s requests for an extension of the ETC designation deadline for California, Oklahoma and Kansas on the grounds that the company didn’t move in a timely fashion to obtain those designations.
LTD has accused its attorney of “egregious misconduct” in his handling of the company’s California ETC designation request and has asked the FCC to reconsider its decision for that state. Perhaps the same attorney handled LTD Broadband’s other ETC filings.
Meanwhile, the FCC has deferred consideration of LTD’s requests for ETC deadline extensions for South Dakota and Texas.
LTD Broadband also has said it won’t pursue deployments in areas where it had winning RDOF bids but which, according to other stakeholders, already have broadband service or are not appropriate for deployment. The company was one of numerous companies that received lists of disputed census blocks from the FCC.
The latest RDOF ready-to-authorize list can be found at this link.