The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit put an end earlier this month to a nearly five-year-old billing dispute between T-Mobile and Puerto Rico Telephone involving several million dollars in charges related to network interconnection and transport facilities.
On May 2, the court reverted a prior decision by the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico and affirmed a prior ruling by the Telecommunications Regulatory Board that PRT had been improperly billing T-Mobile at higher rates for the network facilities it used to complete calls.
“T-Mobile is very pleased with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruling,” said Jorge Martel, general manager of T-Mobile Puerto Rico. “The decision is aligned with T-Mobile’s position and the Puerto Rico Telecommunications [Regulatory] Board ruling.”
“The appeals court reversed the district court and affirmed a ruling by the Puerto Rico regulatory authorities, that the applicable rates are those provided by the interconnection agreements between T-Mobile and PRTC,” he said.
While T-Mobile refrained from disclosing the exact amount that was under dispute, the initial case PRT filed in 2008 stated the wireless carrier owed some $1.2 million in interconnection fees, dating from when it was still operating as AT&T Wireless.
The wireless carrier — which has undergone several corporate transformations — first entered into an interconnection agreement with PRT in June 1999, as SunCom Wireless. At the time, the companies negotiated rates for the infrastructure that would be used, establishing how much the wireless carrier would pay PRT to complete “intrastate” and “interstate” calls.
Alleging T-Mobile did not qualify for the lower interstate fees — because it did not prove that 10 percent of its call traffic would be intrastate — PRT began charging the carrier the higher interstate rates. In an appeal before the U.S. District Court in Hato Rey, PRT won its argument.
In May 2011, T-Mobile appealed the court’s decision, which resulted in last week’s ruling in its favor.