Court Reins In Arbiter’s Requirements for Qwest

     (CN) – An Arizona arbitration commission overstepped its legal authority by imposing certain access and pricing requirements on Qwest during arbitration of an interconnection agreement with a local carrier, the 9th Circuit ruled.

     The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires former local carriers that dominated the market to enter into interconnection agreements giving new competitors unbundled access to certain network components.
     The Act also invites competitors to petition a state commission to arbitrate disputes.
     Under this provision, the Arizona Corporation Commission arbitrated the terms of Covad Communication’s agreement with Qwest. The ACC ended up imposing certain obligations on Qwest, such as an unbundling requirement that the Federal Communications Commission explicitly withdrew.
     The district court determined that the ACC’s order crossed into territory best left to the FCC.
     The federal appeals court in San Francisco agreed.
     “The Act’s language, history, and purpose, in addition to the overwhelming majority of judicial and administrative decisions on the matter, persuade us that state commissions may not impose … access or pricing requirements in the course of arbitrating interconnection agreements,” Judge Clifton wrote.
     The three-judge panel added that pre-emption bars the ACC from using state law to order the unbundling of elements that the FCC specifically declined to unbundle.

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