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Federal court panel denies telecom's appeal

RIPLEY — A federal court panel has ruled against Dixie-Net Communications Inc. in its appeal of an adverse ruling over in-state fees.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by a Mississippi federal judge against Ripley-based Dixie-Net, a telecom business.

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 2007, the PSC said the calls are local traffic and, therefore, AT&T isn’t required to pay inside-state switched access fees to Dixie-Net for these calls.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mills in Oxford ruled last year for the PSC. Mills said the agreement requires payment when a call is “local traffic,” not where it originates or ends.

The 5th Circuit panel said it would not overrule Mills’ decision.

In 2010, Dixie-Net sued BellSouth Telecommunications Inc., also known as AT&T Mississippi, and the PSC.

Dixie-Net claims that under federal law, “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.

Dixie-Net had 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.

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