Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sprint unit sues Nebraska Public Service Commission in US District Court-Nebraska; alleges that PSC is stonewalling Sprint-TimeWarner Cable venture to provide phone service to Southeast Nebraska area on pretext that local phone carriers dont have to deal with the cable company. Thu, Oct. 13,The Associated Press Sprint Communications Co. is accusing the Nebraska Public Service Commission of hampering its efforts to provide local phone service in the state. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Sprint Communications, a subsidiary of Sprint Nextel Corp., alleges that the Public Service Commission is violating the federal telecommunications Act of 1996, which was meant to foster competition in the industry and give consumers more choices. Sprint Communications, based in Overland Park, teamed with Time Warner Cable to provide local telephone service in Lincoln and other cities using Time Warner’s cable wires. To do that, Sprint must reach agreements with local phone companies to handle telephone calls to their customers. But Sprint could not strike a deal with the Southeast Nebraska Telephone Co., or Sentco, to offer local service in Falls City. Sentco argued that because Time Warner, not Sprint, would actually be the company directly offering phone service, it was not obligated under federal law to negotiate with Sprint. The Public Service Commission ruled in September that Sprint did not meet the definition of a telephone common carrier under Federal Communications Commission regulations and did not qualify to negotiate agreements with local telephone companies. Sprint wants the court to declare it a telecommunications carrier, require local phone companies to negotiate interconnection agreements, and issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the Public Service Commission from enforcing its order. Sprint said phone service in urban areas had expanded through innovation in technology, but rural areas of Nebraska “currently lack any meaningful choice regarding their provider of local wireline telecommunications services.” “Although the purpose of the 1996 act was to open up local monopolies to competition, the … PSC’s rewrite of the statutory definition preserves Sentco’s local monopoly and deprives rural subscribers of the new options and innovation that other customers around the nation enjoy,” the lawsuit says. One key issue behind the lawsuit is how local telephone companies are paid for phone calls they receive from other carriers that complete in their exchange area. With digital technology, it is difficult to determine where a call originates, making it difficult for a local exchange to determine how much to charge for the call. Meanwhile, the FCC is looking at reforming the process that carriers use to charge each other for terminating phone calls. One idea is to come up with a uniform charge for all calls. Sprint spokeswoman Debra Peterson said the company believes consumers should have choices when it comes to their local telephone service provider. “We’re simply trying to make that happen,” she said. First glance ■ Sprint Communications Co. claims in a lawsuit that a state agency is hampering it from providing local phone service in Nebraska.

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