VoIP Provider Files Net Neutrality Complaint With FCC

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A Florida VoIP carrier has filed a net neutrality complaint against a Georgia utility and broadband provider, after the utility accused the VoIP firm of theft of service for using its network to deliver voice service without paying for it.

L2Networks filed the net neutrality complaint with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, the first formal complaint since the FCC passed net neutrality rules in December 2010. L2Networks' filing comes after the telecommunications manager for the City of Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission, a municipal utility in Georgia, filed a theft-of-service complaint with the Dougherty County Police Department in Albany earlier this year.

Albany Water's assertion that the VoIP (voice over IP) provider should be paying for access to its fiber-optic network violates the FCC's net neutrality rules barring broadband network providers from selectively discriminating against Web-based content and service, L2Networks said in a press release. If the FCC allows Albany Water's attempt to collect payments from L2Networks to move forward, other broadband network operators may be emboldened to seek money from popular Web-based services such as Google, Facebook and Netflix, L2Networks said.

The case could lead to an "irreversible ripple effect along with the creation of various legal challenges across nearly every national content and application provider," L2Networks CEO Kraig Beahn said in a press release. "We are deeply concerned that the alleged claim could potentially change the landscape of the national Internet marketplace as residential and commercial consumers see it today."

The two companies had a business relationship dating back to 2007 that soured in 2011, Beahn said in an email. L2Networks has a "mountain" of documentation related to anticompetitive practices by Albany Water, he said.

"The real issue is the possibility that nearly any ISP can file a theft-of-service complaint if they feel another competitive application service provider intrudes upon their territory or simply wishes to remove such competition from the local marketplace," he added.

Officials with Albany Water did not respond to two email messages and a voice mail message seeking comment on L2Networks' FCC complaint. A spokesman with the Dougherty County Police Department confirmed that Albany Water has filed a theft-of-service complaint and said an investigation is ongoing.

L2Networks, which provides voice and broadband service to about 2,250 business customers in southwestern Georgia, also filed a complaint against Albany Water with the Georgia Public Service Commission in March. The Georgia complaint also accuses Albany Water of temporarily locking L2Networks employees out of a network building leased from Albany Water while there were equipment problems inside the facility.

L2Networks purchases ethernet transport from Albany Water in order to serve its voice and Internet customers, Beahn said. The theft-of-service complaint stems from a single customer that uses L2Networks VoIP service over Albany Water's broadband service, he said. L2Networks also provides IP transit services to Albany Water, he said.

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