Washington state ILECs say PAETEC is avoiding access charge payments

PAETEC (Nasdaq: PAET) is facing heat from the Washington Independent Telecommunications Association (WITA), a group that represents Washington state-based independent ILECs, that it changed data in its call signaling stream so it would not have to pay access charges to the state's service providers.

Following an investigation from a number of Washington state telcos it represents, WITA filed a complaint with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC).

What prompted these telcos to look into this issue were a number of reports of "dropped calls, ‘dead air,' and endless busy signals," a method some service providers use to avoid paying higher access charges to smaller telcos in rural areas.

"Washington law clearly states that telecommunications companies ‘shall receive exchange and transmit each other's messages without delay or discrimination and all telecommunications companies shall receive and transmit messages for any person,'" WITA said in a release.

WITA has advised the WUTC to force PAETEC to not only cease dodging access fees but also that they should take away their ability to offer telecom services in Washington state. In addition, the organization wants to be able to examine two years of PAETEC's traffic data to see how big the issue is.

The industry group said that "McLeodUSA/Paetec could be fined between $100 to $500 for each violation and also be ordered to pay all of the back access fees required by state law."

Although end-customers won't see any issues, Betty Buckley, Executive VP of WITA, said that the access charge revenues these telcos get from service providers like PAETEC are "a revenue stream we can't afford to go without" to fund network upgrades and deliver new services.

For more:
- Telecompetitor has this article

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