Sprint, CenturyLink squabble hits FCC

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Sprint's (NYSE: S) legal battle with CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) has spread to the FCC. Sprint is asking the FCC to decide whether it should pay CenturyLink for VoIP long-distance traffic.    

The question stems from a long-running federal lawsuit CenturyLink--then called CenturyTel--filed against Sprint to enforce access tariffs on VoIP-originated calls.

In a complaint filed November 2009, CenturyLink accused Sprint of failing to pay tariffed switched access charges on VoIP-originated interstate long-distance traffic that was delivered to Sprint in its capacity as a wholesale provider and then delivered to CenturyLink via Feature Group D facilities.

In considering CenturyLink's complaint, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana found in January 2011 that "the main issue in this case is whether Plaintiffs' tariffed rates are even applicable to VoIP originated calls."

The litigation was stayed and the question referred to the FCC. In its petition to the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau, Sprint is seeking a declaratory ruling on the applicability of tariffed access rates to VoIP-originated calls. On Friday, the Wireline Competition Bureau announced it opened the comment period on Sprint's petition, filed April 5.

Specifically, Sprint's petition asks the FCC to declare that: (1) for periods prior to December 29, 2011, "access tariffs filed with the Commission, including CenturyLink's tariffs, did not impose compensation obligations on VoIP originated calls delivered over the public switched telephone network"; (2) "because the VoIP originated traffic is jurisdictionally interstate, intrastate access tariffs cannot impose compensation obligations with respect to that traffic, even if those calls originate and terminate in the same state"; and (3) Sprint could not violate section 201(b) of the Communications Act when it compensated CenturyLink at $0.0007 per minute, rather than at rates in CenturyLink's switched access tariffs."

Interested parties may file comment on or before June 14. Pleadings to the Wireline Competition Bureau's Pricing Policy Division should reference WC Docket No. 12-105, the FCC notice indicated.

The underlying litigation is CenturyTel v. Sprint Communications.

For more:
- see FCC notice