Covad’s Antitrust Claim on BellSouth Lives On

UPDATED: Covad’s long-running antitrust action against BellSouth is still alive after an appeals court remanded the case to district court, the company announced today.

The San Jose, Calif., broadband provider failed to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to examine BellSouth’s alleged violations of the Telecommunications Act, but said that doesn’t prevent it from pursuing “price squeeze” charges in lower courts.

The case now returns to U.S. District Court in Georgia, James Kirkland, Covad’s general counsel, told No procedural dates have been set yet.

The original suit against Atlanta’s BellSouth was filed in December 2000, just after Covad served a similar action against New York’s Verizon .

Covad is weighing its next move in the Verizon suit. It recently received conflicting judicial opinions about on which grounds it could proceed. One option is to ask the Supreme Court to settle the matter, Kirkland said. A decision about how to proceed should come within 60 days.

Despite the parties’ inability to reach an agreements during more than four years of litigation, the factions are still talking and in some cases doing business together.

“We’re in ongoing discussions [with BellSouth and Verizon],” Kirkland said.

“I think the dialogue we’re having is constructive, but as in all these situations we’ll know when it’s ended.”

Kirkland noted that Covad has been able to work with the Bells. For example, Covad and Verizon signed a four-year line-sharing deal. And earlier, Covad reached an agreement with SBC to end an antitrust suit.

“Covad’s case has been significantly narrowed,” Joe Chandler, a BellSouth spokesman, said. “We believe the remaining claims have no merit and intend to defend them vigorously.” A Verizon spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Covad, which competes against the Baby Bells for voice and digital
subscriber line , customers, has not said how much it’s seeking in damages and legal fees.

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