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Frontier fiber route maps under dispute

By Eric Eyre, The Charleston Gazette

Frontier Communications won’t give up detailed records of its fiber-optic cable routes in West Virginia to competitor Citynet, according to documents filed with the state Public Service Commission last week.

Frontier asserts that the records include propriety information, showing where the company has installed terminals, equipment and high-speed Internet service. Only a small number of Frontier employees have access to the information on a "need-to-know basis," the company said. Instead, Frontier has offered to create new route maps that don’t disclose business secrets.

Citynet wants detailed fiber route records as part of a plan to expand high-speed Internet service into areas where Frontier is now the sole Internet provider. Citynet predicts that competition will lead to better service for customers.

"It comes as no surprise that Frontier continues to try to protect their monopoly status throughout rural West Virginia by disregarding their legally binding interconnection agreements with competitive carriers," Citynet CEO Jim Martin said Friday.

Earlier this month, the PSC’s legal staff started a preliminary investigation into allegations that Frontier is trying to stifle competition for high-speed Internet in West Virginia. Frontier is West Virginia’s largest Internet provider.

In July, Bridgeport-based Citynet filed a complaint against Frontier. Citynet alleges that Frontier won’t honor a 2003 agreement – approved by the PSC – that allows Citynet to lease unused fiber-optic cable from Frontier. Frontier has said City’s complaint is "without merit."

In the complaint, Citynet said Frontier has rejected Citynet’s requests to lease fiber, in violation of the 2003 agreement. Frontier said it didn’t have any fiber available for lease to Citynet, which primarily serves businesses.

In February, Citynet asked to lease Frontier’s fiber cable between Clarksburg and Elkins, and between Clarksburg and Philippi.

Citynet requested to see maps of Frontier’s fiber network in those areas.

Frontier has acknowledged having fiber "route and plate" records," but the company said Citynet doesn’t have a right to review them.

PSC staff asked whether Frontier would be willing to release the records after blacking out confidential and proprietary business information.

"It theoretically would be possible," Frontier lawyer Joe Starsick responded last week, "but it would not be practicable."

Instead, Frontier offered to create maps and charge Citynet $1,764 for the documents. Frontier said Citynet never agreed to pay for the maps. Citynet said the company did offer to pay.

PSC lawyers asked Citynet to prove its assertion.

In a subsequent filing, Citynet released a series of emails purporting to show the company agreed to pay Frontier for the maps. After Frontier disclosed the $1,764 price tag, a Citynet executive wrote back in March, "…We would like to move forward here. If you could let me know the next steps in moving this forward that would be appreciated." It’s unclear whether Frontier responded.

In a filing last week, Frontier also offered to show Citynet "illustrative" fiber route maps between its central office switching facilities. Those maps, however, don’t reveal the exact location of the company’s fiber cable.

After completing its preliminary review, PSC lawyers will decide whether to send the dispute to an administrative law judge and hold a hearing.

Frontier spokesman Dan Page said the company wouldn’t comment beyond the responses it filed with the PSC last week.

"We respect the authority of the Public Service Commission and the procedures it follows," Page said.

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