Bells to have day in high court
Qwest, other telcos want antitrust case dismissed
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear regional Baby
Bells, including Qwest Communications, argue that an
antitrust case against them should be thrown out. At issue
are allegations that Verizon, Qwest, BellSouth and AT&T,
which recently merged with SBC Communications, conspired to
keep other phone companies from competing successfully in
A federal court dismissed the complaint, but the 2nd Circuit
Court of Appeals in New York ruled last fall that the
class-action suit should be allowed to proceed to discovery,
or exchange of evidence.
Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said Monday the Denver telco is
pleased the nation's highest court has agreed to review the
appellate ruling, "and we are looking forward to briefing
the Supreme Court on the issue this fall."
The telcos have argued in court filings that there's no
evidence they conspired with one another and that allowing
discovery wastes money and the court's time.
In its 43-page decision last fall, the appeals court wrote
that the December 2002 lawsuit, "however imperfect," had
satisfied its legal burden for discovery to go forward.
"Whether the plaintiffs will be able to prevail in response
to a motion for summary judgments (dismissal) after
discovery or at trial is, of course, an entirely different
matter," the appellate court wrote.
The plaintiffs, represented by the securities law firm
Milberg Weiss, allege the conspiracy began in 1996, around
the time the Telecommunications Act was enacted to spur
competition. Besides keeping competitors out of their
regions, the Baby Bells allegedly agreed not to enter one
An amended complaint asserts the Bells control about 90
percent of the local phone business, with none competing
meaningfully in other territories.
Plaintiffs pointed in part to a statement by Qwest CEO Dick
Notebaert about the difficulty of competing in another
region. The federal court rejected that as evidence
smithje@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5155.