Dixie-Net takes call payment suit to 5th Circuit

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ripley-based telecom business Dixie-Net Communications Inc. asks the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to examine an Oxford district court’s decision against it over in-state fees.
Last week, Dixie-Net’s attorney, B. Sean Akins of Ripley, notified the court that his client appeals to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal on Chief Judge Michael P. Mills’ ruling that the judge said “shingles off into this fog.”
At issue was whether calls made under AT&T’s Area Calling Plan and Area Plus services should be treated as local traffic.
Dixie-Net asked the Mississippi Public Service Commission to resolve the dispute. In June 2007, the PSC said the calls are local traffic and, thus, AT&T isn’t required to pay inside-state switched access fees to Dixie-Net for these calls.
Dixie-Net appealed to the chancery court in Tippah County, and that’s when AT&T moved it to federal court.
In 2010, Dixie-Net sued BellSouth Telecommunications Inc., aka AT&T Mississippi, and the Mississippi Public Service commissioners Brandon Presley, Leonard Bentz and Lynn Posey.
Under the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, “incumbent local exchange carriers” such as AT&T are required to contract with “competitive local exchange carriers” such as Dixie-Net to establish rates and other terms by which AT&T provides a connection to its network so that traffic can flow between them.
The act also requires connecting carriers to make arrangements to pay for calls that begin with one and end with the other.
When the parties can’t agree, either can appeal to the state commission.
Mills noted that their agreement requires payment when a call is “local traffic,” not where it originates or ends.
Dixie-Net argued before the PSC that calls beginning and ending in the same calling area are not local traffic, and therefore AT&T must pay Dixie-Net for the traffic.
The PSC disagreed.
In his April 11 opinion, Mills said the district court must defer to the PSC’s decision unless it “was arbitrary and capricious,” which the judge said it was not.

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com