Qwest suit alleging AT&T underpaid headed to trial
By Greg Griffin, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Qwest is taking AT&T to court in Denver this week, seeking roughly $60 million it says AT&T owes it for routing toll-free calls through its network.

Qwest says it undercharged AT&T for handling toll-free calls the long-distance carrier received from Qwest's local telephone network between January 2000 and September 2003.

Qwest sued AT&T in U.S. District Court in Denver in October 2003, claiming that AT&T failed to update a database of toll-free numbers Qwest used to calculate billing rates.

AT&T countered that it was not contractually obligated to update the database and that Qwest is responsible for any losses it incurred on the toll-free charges.

It also said Qwest failed to implement technical changes to its billing system required to use a new database.

Representatives for the companies did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

At issue are local access fees that Qwest charges long-distance service providers such as AT&T when a resident of its 14-state local service area dials a toll-free number.

The fees cover Qwest's cost of connecting the call on its local network to the long-distance company's national network.  Rates are determined by law and vary depending on whether the call is to a location within the state of origin or to another state.

Qwest said it charged a lower in-state rate for millions of calls to toll-free numbers that weren't in AT&T's outdated database.  Many of those calls were actually to other states, Qwest said, resulting in undercharges.

Qwest estimated in court filings that AT&T underpaid it $15 million to $20 million a year from January 2000 to September 2003.

The company also claimed that an AT&T manager said the liability to Qwest was about $1.4 million a month.

The six-day jury trial is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. today in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Phillip Figa.

Staff writer Greg Griffin can be reached at 303-820-1241 or ggriffin@denverpost.com.