Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

Saturn Telecommunication Services V. FCC

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

Saturn Telecommunication Services V. FCC

Article excerpt

SATURN TELECOMMUNICATION SERVICES V. FCC

632 F. App'x 591 (11th Cir. 2016)

In Saturn Telecommunication Services v. FCC, (1) the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected a petition by Saturn Telecommunication Services, Inc. to review the FCC's dismissal of Saturn's complaint against AT&T for violating their statutory obligations regarding unbundled access to network elements. (2) The Court found that Saturn's claims had already been settled between Saturn and AT&T in 2006, that their agreement bars raising these claims again, and that the FCC's dismissal was thereby proper. (3)

I. BACKGROUND

In 2006, Saturn, a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) providing services in Florida, raised allegations of misconduct against BellSouth, Inc., the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), regarding the construction of a new network for Saturn's customers and their subsequent migration to the new network in the wake of the FCC's elimination of UNE-P provision requirements in 2005. (4) After filing complaints before the FCC and Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC), (5) and after trying to block BellSouth's then-pending merger with AT&T, (6) the two sides eventually agreed to a Settlement Agreement on November 2006. (7)

In addition to resolving the immediate problem of network construction and migration, Saturn agreed to withdraw their complaints and comments before the FCC and the FPSC and to refrain from refiling these claims. (8) Saturn also agreed to "'release[], acquit[], and discharge[] [AT&T] from all Demands, Actions and Claims, whether known or unknown, asserted or which could have been asserted, against [AT&T] related to' the FPSC Complaint or the FCC Comments." (9) "Demands, Actions and Claims" were defined as:

[A]ll obligations, promises, covenants, agreements, contracts,
endorsements, controversies, suits, actions, causes of actions, rights
of action... claims, demands, rights, charges... of any kind or sort
whatsoever or howsoever or whenever arising... that relate to the
claims set forth by [Saturn] in the FCC [Comments] and the FPSC
Complaint. (10)

However, implementation of the Settlement Agreement ran into numerous difficulties, and Saturn filed an informal complaint with the FCC and a three-claim lawsuit in federal district court against AT&T in connection with the ongoing conflict. (11) After the district court dismissed two of the claims, (12) Saturn had the case dismissed and filed a formal complaint in 2009 with the FCC seeking damages. (13)

After reviewing Saturn's petition, the Enforcement Bureau dismissed the entire complaint in 2013. (14) Citing the "related to" language in the "Demands, Actions and Claims" definition, the Enforcement Bureau found that the claims at issue "related to" those already disputed in 2006, (15) and Saturn was therefore disallowed from raising those issues again. (16) Saturn's argument that the Settlement Agreement did not reach post-Agreement conduct was dismissed (17) as the allegations stemmed from either pre-Agreement conduct or conduct discussed explicitly in the Agreement. …

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