Court Rules that Access Charges Apply To VoIP Calls


On March 2, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted judgment in favor of various LECs affiliated with CenturyLink against Sprint Communications in their dispute over whether Sprint owes access charges to CenturyLink for the exchange of VoIP traffic. The court found dispositive the interconnection agreements (ICAs), which provided that VoIP calls “shall be compensated in the same manner as voice traffic.” Sprint had followed that agreement for many years, but then, in the summer of 2009, began disputing CenturyLink’s invoices for VoIP traffic.

The court concluded that “Sprint’s justifications for refusing to pay access on VoIP-originated traffic, and its underlying interpretation of the ICAs, defy credulity,” and that “Sprint’s defense is founded on post hoc rationalizations developed by its in-house counsel and billing division as part of Sprint’s cost-cutting efforts, and the witnesses who testified in support of the defense were not at all credible.” The court will enter judgment against Sprint for more than $20 million in compensatory damages, late charges, pre- and post-judgment interest, and any allowable attorneys’ fees. Central Tel. Co. v. Sprint Commc’ns Co., No. 3:09-cv-720 (E.D. Va.).

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