Phone carriers pay over $2.3 million to settle lawsuits

December 28, 2019 GMT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Some of South Carolina’s largest telecommunications businesses have agreed to pay four local governments more than $2.3 million to end several lawsuits related to money the companies pay to 911 call centers.

The settlements are the first deals to be released from a string of litigation that accused a number of phone carriers of underpaying fees that go to emergency dispatch centers. The settlement money will be split among Charleston, Richland and Dorchester counties and the town of Summerville, The Post and Courier reported.

AT&T Corp. settled for $1.4 million. Bandwidth Inc. agreed to pay $680,000. And CenturyLink paid out $295,000.

In recent weeks, the local governments delayed the release of those settlement agreements to The Post and Courier as they consulted with the companies. The local officials have also yet to release another deal with Comcast.

In return for the monetary settlements, the local governments dropped the federal lawsuits against the phone companies.

The litigation stemmed from a 50-cent fee the local governments placed on each phone line. The money is supposed to be collected by carriers and remitted to local officials to cover the cost of 911 dispatch operations.

The lawsuits alleged that AT&T, CenturyLink, Bandwidth and Comcast failed to pass on the correct amount of money.

None of the companies admitted any guilt or liability as part of the settlements, and the agreements banned the local governments from auditing the companies’ past accounting practices.

AT&T declined to comment. Bandwidth did not respond to an email about its settlements.

“We are only able to say that the matter has been resolved through settlement,” said Mark Molzen, a spokesman for CenturyLink.

It took a request from The Post and Courier under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act to pry the settlement agreements loose from the county governments.