Verizon continues to lock horns with Dominion over pole attachment rates in Virginia

Carrier says it's entitled to rate relief no matter what agreement was made
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Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Dominion Power continue to lock horns over pole attachment issues in Virginia, with the telco saying the utility company should be required to offer it reasonable rates.

In an FCC filing, Verizon said that Dominion's argument that its rates are "binding and enforceable," because they are in a "historic" joint use agreement, is incorrect.

"This argument fails because no agreed-upon rates are exempt from Commission review," Verizon said in a FCC filing. "It also fails because (1) the Joint Use Agreement is a "new" agreement and (2) even if it were a "historic" agreement, rate relief would still be required."

The pole attachment agreement Dominion made with Verizon was signed following the FCC's adoption of the Pole Attachment Order in 2011. This means that the utility knew that Verizon's rate under federal law should be "the same rate" that applies to any "comparable provider (whether the telecommunications carrier or the cable operator)" and that Verizon could seek relief back to the Order's effective date if Dominion did not comply with the statutory mandate.

Under the FCC's "sign and sue" rules, Verizon has the option to challenge Dominion's rate provision. Verizon said it "execute[d] a pole attachment agreement with a utility, and then later file[d] a complaint challenging the lawfulness of a provision of that agreement" within the statute of limitations.

Regardless of whether Verizon's agreement with Dominion is "new" or "historic," the telco said it is "entitled to rates, terms and conditions that are 'just and reasonable' in accordance with section 224(b)(1)."

Another issue that Verizon cites is bargaining power with Dominion, something that other telcos face in other states where they rent poles to attach their fiber and copper facilities.

Verizon asked the FCC to reject Dominion's request to find that Verizon has enough bargaining power to negotiate a just and reasonable rate for accessing poles.

Dominion, for its part, asked the FCC to find that Verizon has sufficient bargaining power to negotiate a just and reasonable rate.

Verizon said the Commission should reject Dominion's request.

"Dominion has now taken Verizon to court to try to enforce its excessive rates, unwilling to even wait for the Commission to decide this dispute," Verizon said. "The record is, therefore, undisputed that Verizon "genuinely lacks the ability to terminate an existing agreement and obtain a new arrangement."

For more:
- see the FCC filing (PDF)

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