Articles Posted in Communications Law

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Plaintiff segTEL, Inc. was a telecommunications company that owned and/or operated a fiber optic cable network throughout New Hampshire, including within the City of Nashua. It did not own any poles or conduits within the City, and did not have its own license from the City authorizing its occupation of the City’s rights of way. Instead, pursuant to pole attachment agreements with the utility providers, the plaintiff remitted a fee to the utility providers in exchange for the right to place its fiber optic cables on their poles and conduits. These pole attachment agreements did not require the plaintiff to pay property taxes assessed by the City. Having become aware of plaintiff’s use of the utility providers’ poles and conduits, the City in 2014 assessed plaintiff property taxes of $1,507.94 for its use of the City’s rights of way. Plaintiff applied for an abatement, which the City denied. Thereafter, plaintiff brought this action in superior court, seeking: (1) a declaratory judgment that the City was not entitled to impose the tax; and (2) to strike the City’s 2014 tax assessment. The trial court granted summary judgment to plaintiff, ruling that “[b]ecause [the plaintiff] has not entered into an agreement in which it consented to be taxed,” the City could not lawfully tax the plaintiff for its use and occupation of the City’s rights of way. The City appealed, and finding no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Segtel, Inc. v. City of Nashua" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff DirecTV, Inc. appealed a superior court decision denying a petition for property tax abatement for the tax years 2007, 2008, and 2009. The property at issue was located in New Hampton and used by DirecTV as a satellite uplink facility. On appeal, DirecTV argued that the trial court erred when it: (1) ruled that satellite antennas and batteries used to provide backup power constituted fixtures; and (2) determined the value of the property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded after review that the antennas and batteries were not fixtures, and therefore, taxable as real estate. The Court reversed the superior court on that issue, vacated its decision on the valuation of the property, and remanded for further proceedings. View "DirecTV, Inc. v. Town of New Hampton" on Justia Law

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Respondent Northern New England Telephone Operations, LLC d/b/a FairPoint Communications – NNE (FairPoint), appealed two orders of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Petitioners are all “competitive local exchange carriers.” The PUC ordered Verizon New Hampshire to stop imposing “carrier common line charges” upon certain telephone calls that did not require the use of Verizon’s common line. The PUC found that Verizon did not provide switched access service in connection with these calls. Under the plain language of Verizon’s access tariff, the Supreme Court concluded that Verizon was allowed to impose a “carrier common line access charge” (CCL charge) upon “each aspect of switched access service,” and that “common line access” is only one component of switched access service. It was undisputed that Verizon provided other aspects of switched access service with respect to the calls at issue. Following the Supreme Court's decision, the PUC reopened the proceeding and ordered FairPoint, which had purchased Verizon’s New Hampshire assets, to modify the Tariff to clarify that it could “charge CCL only when a FairPoint common line is used in the provision of switched access services.” Ultimately, the PUC approved in part, and rejected in part, tariff revisions that FairPoint submitted. The PUC approved FairPoint’s revision of the CCL charge, but rejected FairPoint’s proposal to increase the rate of an interconnection charge under the Tariff. The PUC granted the petitioners’ motion to dismiss the portion of the docket related to the interconnection charge. FairPoint unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration of both orders, and this appeal followed. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Northern New England Telephone Operations, LLC" on Justia Law

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The petitioners, Bretton Woods Telephone Company, Inc., Dixville Telephone Company, Dunbarton Telephone Company, Inc., and Granite State Telephone, Inc., four exempt incumbent rural local exchange carriers (RLECs), appealed an order of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that denied their motion to rescind or declare null and void registrations of competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) authorized by the PUC to engage in business as telephone utilities in the service territories of RLECs. Citing RSA 374:26 and RSA 374:22-g, among other statutes, the petitioners alleged that the PUC, before issuing the registrations, had failed to provide notice, hold hearings, and determine whether allowing such competition would be consistent with the public good. In light of the Supreme Court's decision in "Appeal of Union Tel. Co.," the petitioners specifically argued that federal law did not preempt these requirements. The PUC ultimately denied the petitioners' request and ruled that section 253(a) of the Telecommunications Act preempted RSA 374:26 and RSA 374:22-g, II. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed, finding that section 253(a) preempted state and local laws, regulations, and requirements that "prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service." View "Appeal of Bretton Woods Telephone Company, Inc." on Justia Law