The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the authority of the state utility regulators to intervene in a dispute between a small-town phone company and one of the big names in telecommunications. This case highlights the route a cell phone call takes from the cell phone itself to its final destination as such calls often travel through equipment owed by different companies.
The East Buchanan Telephone Cooperative provides phone service to residents of four small towns: Winthrop, Quasqueton, Aurora, and Stanley. The cooperative assessed "access charges" to outside carriers sending calls to its customers in those four towns. In 1999, Qwest notified the small-town telephone coop it would no longer pay access charges for cell phone calls that came from other carriers, but wound up traveling to those four communities on a Qwest line.
Five years later, the East Buchanan Telephone Cooperative notified Qwest it would start blocking cell calls sent into the four towns by Qwest from other carriers, like U.S. Cellular. The Iowa Utilities Board issued an order forbidding the small town telephone coop from blocking those cell calls and the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled the board had the authority to take that action.