AT&T, Sprint Battle in Court Over IP Interconnection

By Josh Long Comments
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AT&T Michigan and Sprint are fighting in federal district court over whether AT&T is required under the 1996 Telecommunications Act (Telecom Act) to provide Internet protocol (IP) interconnection.

Sprint Spectrum L.P. argued it would be forced to use costly and inefficient technology without IP interconnection. Last year, the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) sided with Sprint, overturning a decision from an arbitration panel, which had found the state regulator should reserve a decision until the Federal Communications Commission acts.

AT&T “must provide, for the facilities and equipment of any requesting telecommunications carrier ... IP interconnection, with the local exchange carrier’s network — for the transmission and routing of telephone exchange service and exchange access," the PSC held in an Dec. 6, 2013, order.

The state commission said it wasn’t required to delay its decision until the FCC acts on whether an interconnection requirement in the Telecom Act extends to IP to IP interconnection.

“Section 251 of the Act is one of the key provisions specifying interconnection requirements," the PSC quoted the FCC as stating in a 2011 document, “and that its interconnection requirements are technology neutral – they do not vary based on whether one or both of the interconnecting providers is using TDM, IP, or another technology in their underlying networks."

In an appeal filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, AT&T is seeking to set aside the state commission’s decision and reform an interconnection agreement with Sprint. The case names as defendants the PSC’s commissioners, John Quackenbush, Greg White and Sally Talberg, in their official capacities.

In a joint statement to the PSC earlier this year, AT&T and Sprint agreed that all traffic exchanged would be in Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) format but the parties could agree to swap IP traffic under a separate contract, AT&T said.

The PSC violated federal law, AT&T argued in its appeal, because it was only authorized to reject the negotiated language under the Telecom Act if it “discriminates against a telecommunications carrier not a party to the agreement" or its implementation “is not consistent with the public interest, convenience, and necessity." The agreement neither discriminates nor is inconsistent with the public interest, according to AT&T.

Others have filed briefs in the appeal, including CenturyLink, an incumbent local exchange carrier like AT&T, and COMPTEL, an association representing competitive carriers that interconnect with ILEC networks.

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