Porn Pumpers in Iowa Lose Big

By Tim McElligott Comments
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The Iowa Utilities Board issued its final order on Monday in the traffic pumping complaint brought by Qwest and intervened by AT&T and Sprint against eight rural telcos in Iowa. Except for one call blocking finding against Sprint, the telcos and their big market co-conspirators lost their case and will have to pay back the potential millions they raked in pumping free conference calls, podcasts and porn to non-terminating numbers and charging the interexchange carriers termination charges.

Qwest filed its complaint with the IUB on February 20, 2007. They alleged violations of the terms, conditions and application of intrastate tariffs of the following telecommunications companies: Superior Telephone Cooperative; The Farmers Telephone Company of Riceville, Iowa; The Farmers & Merchants Mutual Telephone Company of Wayland, Iowa; Interstate 35 Telephone Company, dba Interstate Communications Company; Dixon Telephone Company; Reasnor Telephone Company LLC; Great Lakes Communications Corp.; and Aventure Communication Technology LLC.

Two-and-a-half years later, after the IUB’s verbal ruling on August 14th, Steven Davis, senior vice president of public policy and government relations at Qwest, said that he was pleased with the decision. More recently as he awaited the formal decision, he said, “We were confident the actions were unlawful and unreasonable and should be prohibited. We were confident about the facts and the law,” he said. “Nonetheless, you can’t go into a proceeding too confident. You have to put on the case and argue the law and believe it will win out. And it did.”

He added that this case sets a tremendous precedent for other cases pending. “This will be a seminal decision that other jurisdictions, commissions and courts will look to for guidance,” he said.

One company, Reasnor Telephone, filed a counterclaim against Qwest claiming the carrier engaged in unlawful discrimination by offering service discounts to different wholesale customers in violation of the prohibition of geographic de-averaging and that it provided preferential discounts to its local exchange affiliates — denied. The IUB said that Reasner filed too late in the proceeding and didn’t consider the claim, but not before dismissing the charges as invalid first.

The IUB did find evidence that Sprint engaged in call blocking and placed Sprint on notice that “it improperly engaged in call blocking and any subsequent findings of call blocking may result in the imposition of civil penalties pursuant to Iowa Code 476.51.

The IUB also denied a motion by Great Lakes and Superior, later joined by Aventure, to stay the issuance of the final order, saying their motion was improper.

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