Qwest Communications is throwing the book at UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency), charging the muni-run agency of anti-competitive practices.
According to the Deseret Morning News, Qwest is alleging that the agency is allowing UTOPIA contractors, including AT&T, to sell services at below market prices. The paper noted that 11 of 14 UTOPIA member cities have pledged financial support through city bonds, but added that Riverton, a member that has not approved bond financing for the fiber project, has been named as a defendant.
Qwest is also alleging that UTOPIA has not met minimum clearance standards for separation with existing power facilities and has put Qwest techs at risk from unsafe pole conditions.
In all, the Qwest action seeks an injunction to stop UTOPIA from violating safety standards, using Qwest-owned poles without agreement, and for unspecified damages, and attorney’s fees.
In a statement, UTOPIA Deputy Director and COO Roger Black said the organization is “surprised and disappointed” in the Qwest filing.
“While our attorneys are preparing a detailed response, it is evident that many of the issues raised in the lawsuit could easily be resolved through good faith negotiations,” he said. “In all other concerns mentioned by Qwest in the lawsuit, UTOPIA is explicitly following state law.”
UTOPIA said the sharing of infrastructure among providers lowers the costs for all parties. It also noted that Qwest was among the first to receive an invitation to provide services via the UTOPIA network, but that the telco rejected the invitation. The invitation remains open, according to UTOPIA.
Last July, UTOPIA closed on $85 million in revenue bonds to finance phase I of its fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) project. That phase will hook up north of 50,000 premises in Salt Lake County and Utah County.