September 01, 2004

In a case of first impression at the circuit court level, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit recently held that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission was not preempted by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) when it required Qwest to provide reports regarding the quality of its “special access” telecommunications services.  The ruling is a victory for Jenner & Block client MCI, which had disputed Qwest’s claims over special access reporting.

In its decision, the court ruled that the FCC did not have exclusive regulatory jurisdiction over Qwest’s Minnesota-based special access lines.   The judges held that the lower court had erred when it applied the “10% rule” jurisdictional separations process, commonly used for cost-allocation purposes, to find preemption of the Minnesota Commission's reporting requirements.  “As we see it, neither the jurisdictional separations process, nor the larger regulatory framework in which it exists, is generally designed to confer exclusive regulatory power,” the judges wrote in their decision.

Partner John R. Harrington argued the case on MCI's behalf earlier this year.  Rounding out the Jenner & Block team were Partners Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. and  Michael B. DeSanctis, along with former Associate Angela B. Debush, now serving as a law clerk for the Honorable Ruben Castillo of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The case is Qwest v. Scott, No 03-1489, 8th Circuit.

Please click here to view the full text of the court’s decision.