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Georgia Telecom First to File Net Neutrality Complaint

A small, controversial telecommunications company has fired off the first network neutrality complaint to the FCC under its new rules.

A small telecommunications company in Georgia has become the first company to file a formal complaint under the new network neutrality rules set forth by the Federal Communications Commission. L2Networks, the filing company, is charging the Albany Water, Gas, and Light Commission, known as WG&L, with violating these rules and principles by interfering with L2Networks’ effort to provide its customers with VoIP service over WG&L’s fiber optic network.

We do not have the official filing available, but the telecom stated in a press release (available here) that Albany WG&L filed a criminal complaint against L2Networks for theft of service, reportedly believing that L2Networks “should have compensated the utility for the use of their fiber-optic Internet infrastructure whilst delivering Voice over IP (VoIP) services over the utilities’ ‘Internet backbone’ to existing internet customers of the utility.” According to L2Networks, the customer whose VoIP service sparked the criminal complaint “currently compensates The City of Albany Water, Gas, and Light Commission’s telecommunications department for use of their fiber-optic based Internet access.” L2Networks is claiming that, because WG&L is being compensated by the customer for use of the network, they should not have to make additional payments to the commission in order to provide their service.

This isn’t the first incident of trouble between L2Networks and WG&L. In March, Kraig Beahn, president of L2Networks, filed a complaint with the Georgia Public Service Commission accusing Albany WG&L with anticompetitive practices, such as requests for “circuit relocations, disconnects, and new quotations” being ignored, corporate espionage by Albany WG&L personnel, and the restricting of access to facilities leased from WG&L to “normal business hours of 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Friday, in direct contradiction of [their] agreement, invoice, and industry standard policies and procedures,” leading to a hardware failure that led to a 4-hour outage of L2Networks services.

When the Georgia Public Service Commission did not address his concerns, Beahn filed a complaint with the FCC. The complaint would be the first handled under the new rules, which the FCC adopted in 2010 and came into effect last year. Verizon has challenged the rules, however, claiming they exceed the FCC’s authority. That challenge is still processing through the court system.

There is reason to be doubtful of L2Networks’ claims, however. In January, Beahn was arrested for felony theft of service when a local cable company and direct L2Networks competitor, Mediacom, found what they characterized as an “illegal connection” to their network that was set up by L2Networks. “When our local team went to investigate, they discovered a Mediacom modem connected to two car batteries that was wired into our cable plant and being used to serve a nearby business. Our team contacted the local authorities,” said a Mediacom spokesperson. “Upon interviewing the business owner, it was discovered that they had contracted with L2Networks for service.”

Beahn claims the charges were “frivolous,” but was unable to give his side of the story, due, he claimed, to a court-imposed gag order. It’s not clear if the charges from January are related to the criminal complaint filed in March.

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