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MPUC Decision: GWI/FairPoint Billing and Fiber Access Dispute is FCC Authority
February 1, 2010
Public Utilities Commission
For Immediate Release
Augusta, Maine—In a wholesale billing dispute case between FairPoint and Great Works Internet (GWI), the Maine Public Utilities Commission ruled that the issue of access to “dark fiber ” (unused fiber optic cable) must be decided by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
“We cannot take sides in this case. The issue of who has access to dark fiber and at what cost is firmly in the hands of the FCC,” stated Commission Chair Sharon Reishus. “We have pursued this issue through the courts; they have made it clear. We strongly encourage all parties in this case to file comments with the FCC. Although we decline this petition from GWI because it is beyond our jurisdiction, we will not hesitate to intervene in the future to enforce FairPoint’s interconnection obligations which do fall within our jurisdiction.”
The Commission directed GWI and FairPoint to negotiate in good faith in order to prevent any service disruptions. GWI is to warn its commercial customers that, if the issues between the two parties are not resolved, there may be disconnections of commercial phone service starting February 12th.
In the case deliberated today, the Commission unanimously denied a petition from GWI to open an investigation into the wholesale billing practices of FairPoint. GWI also requested a temporary emergency moratorium on any disconnections of wholesale service until the outcome of such an investigation; this was also denied by the Commission.
Background: The Commission regulates the phone network system now owned by FairPoint, and has jurisdiction over the interconnection agreements between Fairpoint and FairPoint’s wholesale customers such as GWI. The FCC regulates internet service. The GWI Petition is part of an ongoing dispute between GWI and FairPoint about to what degree and at what financial terms, GWI--and wholesalers like them--may access to the so-called “dark fiber loops.” “Dark fiber” is fiber-optic cable that is currently dormant. Wholesale customers of FairPoint often seek access to this dark fiber in order to expand their own service to end-user customers. FairPoint (and Verizon before them) owns these dark fiber loops and operates them as part of the overall telecommunications network.
The Commission has pursued questions regarding access to dark fiber loops since 2005 in the courts and in its own Commission proceedings. As recently as November 2009, the Commission filed a Petition at the FCC asking for ruling on the issue of access to “dark fiber.” The FCC public comment period on this Petition is open until March 1, 2010.
Contact: Evelyn deFrees, 207-287-6141 firstname.lastname@example.org
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