Articles Posted in Communications Law

by
FC appealed the district court's judgment in favor of Qwest, finding FC was liable for tortious interference with Qwest's contractual relationship with Tekstar. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in finding that FC caused Tekstar to breach its tariff with Qwest; the breach was material; FC's justification defense was rejected where the district court did not clearly err in finding that, prior to contracting with Tekstar, FC was on notice that it was not an end user and that Tekstar would violate its tariff by charging Qwest tariff rates for FC’s traffic; the district court's conclusion was not precluded by collateral estoppel; the district court did not clearly err in finding that the nearly $1 million Qwest paid to AT&T and other long-distance carriers to route FC's traffic flowed directly from FC's tortious interference; and there was no error in the district court's award of attorney's fees to Qwest. View "Qwest Communications Co. v. Free Conferencing Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Charter, holding that Charter Spectrum Voice VoIP service was an "information service" under the Telecommunications Act and Minnesota state regulation of plaintiff's VoIp service was preempted. The court explained that Spectrum Voice's service was an information service because it makes available information via telecommunications by providing the capability to transform that information through net protocol conversion. View "Charter Advanced Services v. Lange" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

by
Petitioners challenged the FCC's 2017 order altering regulations for business data services (BDS). ILEC Petitioners challenged new price cap rates in the order and CLEC Petitioners challenged most of the other changes in the order. The Eighth Circuit granted CLEC's petitions in part and vacated in part. The court denied the petitions for review on all other issues. The court held that the FCC's 2016 notice gave CLEC adequate notice of large scale deregulation and of the adopted Competitive Market Test, but the notice failed to give sufficient notice of its ending of ex ante regulation of transport services. This failure prevented interested parties from informed participation in that portion of the rulemaking and release of a draft of the proposed order did not remedy the FCC's violation of its obligations under the Administrative Procedure Act. Therefore, the court vacated that portion of the final rule affecting time division multiplex transport services and remanded for further proceedings. The court rejected challenges to the FCC's adoption of the Competitive Market Test. The court also held that the FCC did not act unreasonably in excluding low bandwidth Ethernet business data services from price caps; in declining to extend the Interim Wholesale Access Rule to business data services; and in setting the "X-factor" annual price cap reduction at 2%. View "Citizens Telecommunications Company of Minnesota v. FCC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, several wire-line telecommunications carriers, challenged the City's ordinance that charged plaintiffs for their use of public rights-of-way. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that the federal Telecommunications Act did not preempt the City's ordinance. The court remanded as to the issue of whether construction costs were management costs that the City could properly charge plaintiffs. In this case, the record was replete with dense reports and conflicting expert opinions and much turned on which experts to believe. Therefore, such decisions must be made in the first instance by the trier of fact. View "Qwest Corp. v. City of Des Moines, Iowa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

by
Under Missouri campaign finance law, chapter 130, a “campaign committee” is formed to receive contributions or make expenditures solely to support or oppose particular ballot measures, "such committee shall be formed no later than thirty days prior to the election for which the committee receives contributions or makes expenditures." Thirteen days before the November 2014 general election, a group formed MFA as a campaign committee, to accept contributions and make expenditures in support of Proposition 10. MFA sued to enjoin enforcement of the formation deadline, citing the First Amendment. The district court granted MFA a temporary restraining order. MFA received contributions and made expenditures before the election. After the election, MFA terminated as a campaign committee. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of MFA. While a formation deadline by itself might not expressly limit speech, the deadline here is more than a disclosure requirement because it prohibits (or significantly burdens) formation of a campaign committee, a requisite for legally engaging in speech, even if the individual or group is willing to comply with organizational and disclosure requirements. Even if the state’s interest in preventing circumvention of chapter 130’s disclosure regime is compelling, the formation deadline is unconstitutional because it is not narrowly tailored, given its burden on speech and its modest effect on preventing circumvention of the disclosure regime. View "Missourians for Fiscal Accountability v. Klahr" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City and ImOn in an action brought by Mediacom, seeking declarations that certain resolutions were void and that the City could not permit a potential cable provider to construct a "cable system" without acquiring a cable franchise. Mediacom also alleged contract violations, tortious interference, civil conspiracy, and Equal Protection violations, all depending on whether ImOn could lawfully build a fiber-optic network without a franchise. The court held that ImOn's fiber-optic network was not a "cable system," because ImOn has not provided or proposed to provide cable services. Therefore, the agreements at issue authorizing ImOn's construction of a fiber-optic network were not a de facto cable franchise. In regard to Mediacom's equal protection claim, the court also held that the district court properly concluded that ImOn and Mediacom were not similarly situated because only Mediacom was a cable provider in the City, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mediacom's motion for discovery. View "MCC Iowa v. Iowa City" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners sought review of the FCC's order governing the rates that utility companies may charge telecommunications providers for attaching their networks to utility-owned poles. The Eighth Circuit denied the petition, holding that the term "cost" in the Pole Attachments Act, 47 U.S.C. 224, was ambiguous and the same "cost" definition need not be used to determine the upper bound for cable rates under section 224(d) and the rate for telecommunications providers under section 224(e). Therefore, the statute permits, but did not require, the Cable Rate and the Telecom Rate to diverge. The court rejected petitioners' argument that the FCC's interpretation of the statute rendered section 224(e) superfluous; concluded that the order constituted a reasonable interpretation of the ambiguity in section 224(e); and denied the petition for review. View "Ameren Corp. v. FCC" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit held that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 preempted the Iowa Utilities Board's authority to compel Sprint to pay intrastate access charges to Windstream. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Board and Windstream and its determination that the Act preserved the Board's authority and that Sprint was not entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief. View "Sprint Communications Co. v. Jacobs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

by
The district court found third-party plaintiff Qwest failed to prove its claims for intentional interference with a business relationship, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment against third-party defendant FC. The court agreed with the district court that FC did not act with an improper purpose when it contracted with Sancom, a local exchange carrier (LEC), because FC was simply attempting to take advantage of the uncertain regulatory scheme at the time; FC had a legitimate argument that it could be considered an “end user,” and thus Sancom could bill Qwest under its tariff for calls delivered to FC’s call bridges; and thus the district court did not err in finding for FC on Qwest's claim for intentional interference with a business relationship. The court predicted that the South Dakota Supreme Court would not recognize a tort of unfair competition under these circumstances, and found that the district court properly rejected this new tort. The court concluded, however, that the district court incorrectly found FC’s conduct was “neither illegal nor inequitable” because it was simply taking advantage of a loophole until the loophole closed, and the district court improperly considered Sancom’s settlement payments to Qwest when it found FC was not unjustly enriched. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for reconsideration of whether FC was unjustly enriched. View "Qwest v. Free Conferencing Corp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Charter, alleging that Charter retained his personally identifiable information in violation of a section of the Cable Communications Policy Act, 47 U.S.C. 551(e). The district court granted Charter's motion to dismiss. The court concluded that plaintiff's notice of appeal was timely where plaintiff filed his notice of appeal thirty-seven days after the district court’s judgment dismissing the case was entered in the docket, well before the district court’s judgment was deemed “entered” and the time for filing a notice of appeal began to run. With the benefit of Spokeo v. Robin's guidance, the court concluded that plaintiff has not alleged an injury in fact as required by Article III. In Spokeo, the Supreme Court explained that Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation. In this case, plaintiff failed to allege a concrete harm and failed to allege an economic injury. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Braitberg v. Charter Communications" on Justia Law