L2Networks, a small competitive service provider in Albany, Ga.; yesterday filed what the company claims is the first formal net-neutrality complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. The complaint was made against Albany Water Gas & Light Commission, a local utility that also offers telecommunications services over a fiber-optic network – and the filing appears to be the culmination of a contentious history between the two companies.
According to a press release issued by L2Networks, the filing was made in response to a criminal complaint filed against L2 by Albany Water Gas & Light alleging that L2 should have compensated the utility for use of its fiber-optic infrastructure to deliver voice over IP services to existing customers of the utility.
The impact of the Albany Water complaint, if successful, “has the potential to immediately create an irreversible ripple effect along with the creation of various legal challenges across nearly every national content and application provider like Netflix, Vonage, Packet8, Facebook, Google, Amazon and other entities that provide application based services across ‘the internet’” argues L2 in its press release.
This isn’t the first time that a provider of VoIP services has tussled with a provider of underlying broadband infrastructure – and even before Net Neutrality guidelines were adopted, it was typically the VoIP provider that prevailed.
This also isn’t the only action that L2 has taken against Albany Water. Back in March L2 filed a complaint with the Georgia Public Service Commission arguing that Albany Water had illegally prevent L2 from accessing L2 equipment housed in Albany Water facilities and that Albany Water personnel had illegally entered L2 facilities.
On the flip side, Albany Water’s theft of service accusations against L2 were not the first theft of service accusations leveled against L2. According to the Albany Herald, L2 CEO Kraig Beahn was charged in January with stealing service from Albany cable operator Mediacom by tapping into a Mediacom outlet and running the signal into a client’s building for phone service. Beahn also was charged in 2009 with theft of service in Alabama, according to the Herald, but charges were dismissed when Beahn agreed to pay $5,000 in restitution.
The Herald also reports that L2 was granted a franchise agreement to provide Internet and video-over internet service by the Albany City Commission in 2010 after Beahn and Albany Water explored a partnership to provide services in competition with Mediacom.
“That partnership dissolved before any meaningful headway could be made,” reported the Herald, which also noted that L2Networks provides phone service for the City of Albany.
Without knowing what paperwork might exist between L2Networks and Albany Water, it’s impossible to judge which party is in the right. What the Net Neutrality filing does illustrate, however, is that in imposing Net Neutrality guidelines, the FCC has opened itself up to intervening in numerous such local disputes at a time when its resources are already stretched thin trying to manage numerous impending spectrum auctions and a once-in-a-lifetime overhaul of the Universal Service system.