The high court said in a unanimous ruling that a
federal district court can consider a lawsuit filed by
subsidiary Sprint Communications Co challenging an Iowa
Utilities Board decision even though the legal process in Iowa
courts is not yet complete.
The dispute arose in 2009 when Sprint declined to pay access
charges for its calls carried by Iowa Telecom — now Windstream
Iowa Communications — that were transmitted over the Internet
rather than the traditional phone network.
The Iowa Utilities Board, which regulates telecommunications in
the state, said Sprint was required to pay.
Windstream had billed Sprint for access charges for the Internet
calls, known as "voice over Internet protocol" or VoIP calls.
Sprint maintains that under the federal Telecommunications Act
of 1996, VoIP calls are an "information service" not a
"telecommunications service" and that therefore the company does
not have to pay access charges.
Sprint challenged the utilities board decision in federal court
and state court in 2011.
A federal judge and the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals both said the state proceeding had to be completed
In Tuesday's ruling, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the
Supreme Court said that the federal lawsuit could go ahead.
The case is Sprint v. Jacobs, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-815.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley;
editing by Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis)
[© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2013 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.