FCC Petitioned in Access Charge Litigation

Beehive Telephone has Petitioned the FCC for a declaratory ruling in an effort to salvage a lawsuit that Beehive brought against Sprint in federal court for collection of access charges. According to the Petition, Sprint refused to pay Beehive’s access invoices because Sprint believes they are the product of unlawful traffic stimulation” by Beehive and a conference bridge provider. In March 2008, Beehive filed an informal complaint with the FCC seeking a finding that Sprint’s refusal to pay is an unlawful practice under Section 201 of the Communications Act. Sprint opposed the informal complaint on various grounds. In May of 2008, Beehive filed a collections lawsuit against Sprint in federal court in Utah. Thereafter, the FCC stated that it would take no further action on the informal complaint. However, the court later dismissed Beehive’s lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction, finding that the informal complaint with the FCC was an election of remedies” that prevents Beehive from pursing the collections matter in court. (Section 207 of the Communications Act allows complaints against carriers to be brought at the FCC or in Court, but not in both places.) Beehive’s February 2010 Petition asks the FCC to clarify that its initial Section 201 informal complaint raised a different issue from the collection action and thus did not foreclose the collection lawsuit under the election of remedies”. In effect, Beehive is taking the unusual step of asking the FCC to rule that Beehive is barred from bringing its collection action at the FCC. If successful in having itself barred by the FCC, Beehive hopes to use the ruling to persuade the Court to reinstate its collection lawsuit. Comments are due at the FCC on March 1, Replies March 11.