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Cent. Mont. Communs., Inc. v. U S West Communs., Inc.

First Judicial District Court of Montana, Lewis and Clark County

April 6, 2000, Decided

Cause No. BDV 99-55

Opinion

ORDER ON PETITION FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' petition for judicial review. There are no factual disputes at issue. The matter has been submitted on the briefs and is ready for decision.

Background

Plaintiffs, Central Montana Communications. Inc., et al. (TELCOS), have petitioned this Court for judicial review of a Public Service Commission (PSC) order that dismissed a TELCOS contract and tariff complaint against U S WEST Communications, Inc. (U S WEST). In the Matter of U S WEST Communications, Order No. 6185, Docket No. D99.2.26, July 2, 1999.

The PSC is an administrative agency of the State of Montana. Sections 2-15-2601-02. MCA. The PSC is charged with regulating the rates and services of public utilities, including telephone companies. Section 69-1-102, MCA. The parties to this petition are all telephone companies providing telecommunications services in Montana, Three TELCOS members, Central Montana Communications, Project Telephone Company, and Valley Telecommunications, are public utilities regulated by the PSC. The other two. Nemont Telephone Cooperative and Triangle Telephone Cooperative, are telephone cooperatives not regulated by the [*2]  PSC. Defendant U S WEST is a public utility regulated by the PSC.

The underlying complaint before the PSC involves a TELCOS - U S WEST relationship in the network through which telecommunications services are provided. In this network each telephone company, regulated or cooperative, normally has one or more designated service areas referred to as local exchanges. Telephone calls initiated in one local exchange are commonly directed to and terminated in another local exchange, which may be served by the same telephone company or another telephone company. These telephones calls between exchanges (i.e., calls initiated in one exchange and terminated in another exchange) may be transported by a third telephone company. This routing of calls between exchanges of various telephone companies generally involves interconnection facilities, coordination efforts and compensation arrangements.

The TELCOS - U S WEST relationship involved U S WEST being a transporter of calls originating in the exchanges of various telephone companies and terminating in the TELCOS exchanges. The TELCOS complaint before the PSC was that U S WEST, although having previously maintained a long standing practice of paying [*3]  terminating access charges for termination of all U S WEST transported telephone calls regardless of exchange of origination and as measured by the TELCOS methods, unilaterally decided that it would only pay terminating access charges for U S WEST transported calls which originated in U S WEST exchanges and as measured by U S WEST methods. The TELCOS alleged that U S WEST's new policy on payment was not in compliance with TELCOS - U S WEST contracts and regulated TELCOS tariffs.

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2000 Mont. Dist. LEXIS 2607 *

CENTRAL MONTANA COMMUNICATIONS, INC., NEMONT TELEPHONE COOPERATIVE, INC., PROJECT TELEPHONE COMPANY. INC., TRIANGLE TELEPHONE COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION, INC., and VALLEY TELECOMMUNICATIONS, INC., Plaintiffs, v. U S WEST COMMUNICATIONS, INC., and THE MONTANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, Defendants.

Prior History: Central MT Comm., Inc. v. U S W. Comm., Inc., 2000 Mont. Dist. LEXIS 2606 (Apr. 6, 2000)

CORE TERMS

telephone company, public utility, regulated, rates, Telephone, terminating, exchanges, tariffs