Sprint Communications Co. has found
an ally in Verizon Communications Inc. as the latter calls for an appellate
court to nullify the decision of a lower court in relation to the case brought
by CenturyLink Inc.
Verizon has filed a motion seeking leave
to file an amicus brief to back up allegations of Sprint, pressing the Fifth Circuit
to invalidate the $12.5 million fees imposed by the lower court in favor of
CenturyLink. In its statement, Verizon noted that Sprint committed no violation or
breach of the Communications Act. This means that
CenturyLink had no right to seek an order or file complaints to the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC), Verizon argued.
According to the guideline of
FCC, clients who fail to pay fees incurred under a carrier’s tariff are not
punishable under the provisions of the Communications Act. Hence, CenturyLink
erred in its move to involve the FCC in the dispute with Sprint. With this in
mind, Verizon is putting forward the opinion that the lower court should not
have granted a $12.5 million fee in relation to the case between Sprint and
The brief from Verizon came after
U.S. District Judge Robert G. James issued a ruling siding with CenturyLink
and ordered Sprint to pay up $12.5 million in fees to the local units of the
telecommunications company. In his decision, the Louisiana federal judge declared Sprint’s assertions in its refusal to for the fees charged in connecting
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calls to local networks to be invalid.
James ruled Sprint was required
by law to fulfill his obligations in its agreement with CenturyLink by paying
federal and state telecommunications tariffs. Since Sprint benefited from the use
of the local units’ telephone network facilities in completing long
distance calls, they are obligated to compensate for the services.
In their brief, however, Verizon said the district court’s ruling failed to follow the guidelines
set forth by FCC. Cases of similar nature filed and decided upon prior to this
one also showed a different application of the rules, according to Verizon. In
effect, this latest ruling on the matter, which it labelled as “inconsistent
with FCC precedent,” would undoubtedly cause confusion in future disputes or
concerns in the communication industry.
“The district court’s contrary
ruling is inconsistent with FCC precedent and, by extending the narrow
attorney-fee-shifting provision in the Communications Act, would dramatically
alter well-accepted practices in the communications industry,” Verizon stated
in the amicus brief it submitted, according to Law 360.
In response to the brief from
Verizon, the plaintiffs noted the company failed to produce any
substantial evidence to prove their claims. CenturyLink also alleged that
Verizon’s interest in the matter stemmed from their fear of getting penalized
under the same situation. That is, CenturyLink alleged Verizon to be committing
the same practices as Sprint.
“Apparently, recognizing that an appeal is not
the time and place to supplement the trial record as to just how 'standard' this industry practice really is, Verizon cites no evidence in support of this
assertion,” said CenturyLink in their brief via Law 360. "The
record on which the district court based its decision, however, does include
trial testimony by one of Sprint’s witnesses that Verizon has engaged in the
same type of self-help of which CenturyLink complained.”