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LTD blames its lawyer for its RDOF problems

LTD Broadband sits at the center of a firestorm of concerns over an FCC program designed to finance the construction of broadband networks in rural areas. As it works to defend its position, the company has rolled out a new line of defense: Blame the lawyer.

"LTD is not itself culpable for Mr. [Kristopher] Twomey's unprofessional and dishonest actions because it innocently hired him to perform legal services and could not have foreseen that he would behave improperly," the company wrote in a new, fiery filing to the FCC.

Indeed, the company pulled no punches in its assessment of its former lawyer: "He repeatedly lied to LTD's principal," the company told the FCC.

Twomey, for his part, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Light Reading.

An RDOF for crossing the digital divide

At issue is LTD's participation in the FCC's $9.2 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction. The company was the biggest winner of the event, walking away with fully $1.3 billion in government funding to construct fixed and wireless Internet services in rural areas of 15 states. The company's CEO, Corey Hauer, told Light Reading earlier this year that LTD would primarily use fiber technologies to build Internet connections in rural areas.

However, just weeks after the close of the FCC's RDOF auction, critics began worrying that LTD would not be able to meet its RDOF obligations to construct Internet networks in rural areas.

"There is no indication that LTD [Broadband] has the technical, engineering, financial, operational, management, staff or other resources to meet RDOF [Rural Digital Opportunity Fund] build-out and service obligations," wrote the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and the Iowa Communications Alliance in a joint filing to the FCC.

LTD, for its part, has pushed back against those concerns.

Nonetheless, the issue is important because the Biden administration has proposed pushing roughly $40 billion more into constructing broadband networks in rural areas. The disbursement process for that additional money could be similar to the RDOF auction process. Meaning, if LTD and other RDOF winners can't meet their obligations and build networks in rural areas, the Biden administration's overall broadband goals might also be in jeopardy.

These issues are probably why the FCC has been moving carefully through the process to allocate money to RDOF winners. The agency has been evaluating each RDOF winner to assess whether it believes they can meet their obligations. The agency in July approved a number RDOF applications – essentially paving the way for winners to receive their funding – but the agency did not approve the applications of a number of other winners, including LTD.

Specifically, the FCC said LTD did not secure necessary state approvals in California, Oklahoma and Kansas.

An application failure

But, according to LTD, the company failed to receive state certifications in part because of the lawyer it hired in January: Kristopher E. Twomey, of the Law Office of Kristopher E. Twomey.

"LTD Broadband intends to continue prosecuting that application [for state certification]," LTD wrote in a recent FCC filing on the topic. "Mr. Twomey is no longer engaged by LTD Broadband."

In its latest filing with the FCC, LTD argued that Twomey said he filed for the state certifications necessary for a successful RDOF application, but that he actually didn't do that.

As a result, LTD said the FCC should give it additional time to secure state approvals from California, Kansas and Oklahoma.

The FCC should consider "the adverse impacts on LTD of this egregious and unforeseeable attorney misconduct," LTD told the FCC, arguing against the agency's decision not to approve its RDOF application. "The Bureau was incorrect to impute to LTD responsibility for Mr. Twomey's gross misconduct by declining to consider the highly unusual circumstances."

It's unclear what might happen next. The FCC continues to evaluate the remainder of the winning RDOF applications it has not yet approved.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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