West Virginia regulators send Citynet-Frontier dispute to administrative law judge

The West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) has essentially washed its hands of an ongoing dispute between Frontier Communications and Citynet. The PSC sent the case to an administrative law judge, who is expected to deliver an opinion by April 3, 2015.

Citynet asked the PSC to investigate Frontier's business practices because, it claimed, Frontier refused to lease unused fiber to competing Internet carriers, essentially stifling competition. While not commenting on the validity of the claim, the PSC concluded that the "dispute between Frontier and Citynet is not a general issue affecting public utilities that warrants a general investigation" and urged the two companies to "negotiate a resolution," according to a story in the West Virginia Gazette.

The dispute goes back to 2003 when Citynet and Verizon signed an interconnection agreement allowing Citynet to lease unused fiber. Frontier bought Verizon's landline and fiber networks in 2010 with the promise it would maintain agreements with Citynet and other competitors. Citynet said that's not quite the case and that Frontier and Verizon have rejected 24 of its 25 requests to lease fiber. Frontier has responded that it didn't have any extra fiber to lease.

The PSC noted that Citynet hadn't requested any documents or data from Frontier and that it is "skeptical of the ability of Citynet to successfully prove its allegations at hearing without conducting any discovery in this proceeding."

Frontier was, not surprisingly, "encouraged by the commission's conclusion that a general investigation isn't justified," according to Frontier spokesman Dan Page, speaking to the West Virginia Gazette.

Citynet CEO Jim Martin said the company may renew its calls for a general investigation. "While we are disappointed that the commission elected not to proceed with a general investigation of Frontier, we are pleased that all other significant matters raised in Citynet's complaint have been referred by the commission to an administrative law judge for a trial on the merits," Martin said, according to the West Virginia Gazette.

For more:
- the West Virginia Gazette has this story

Related articles:
West Va. could lose $2.5M in broadband funds as Citynet spars with Frontier, CWA
West Va. might leave $40M in broadband stimulus funds on the table
Frontier, CWA carve out tentative agreement in West Virginia

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