OLYMPIA — The Washington State Supreme Court on Sept. 3 denied review of Century Link’s appeal of a lower court verdict in favor of the Pacific County Public Utility District No. 2.
The case was about the rates PUDs are permitted to charge communication companies for access to their poles. The court’s denial of review means that the PUD’s April victory in the Washington Court of Appeals stands, bringing an end to a 12-year legal battle that pitted the PUD against CenturyLink, Comcast and Charter Communications.
Comcast and Charter had already conceded defeat after the April loss, paying poll access fees from throughout the period the lawsuit was being contested, plus interest and attorney fees, giving PUD a combined $3.38 million. The final bill for CenturyLink has not been worked out, but earlier this year PUD General Manager Jason Dunsmore said the total was likely over $2 million.
In 2007, the three communication companies challenged the PUD’s large rate increase for pole access by leaving their communications equipment on the poles while refusing to pay the new rates. The PUD had the right to remove the equipment itself but instead welcomed the challenge, suing the companies. That led to a court battle that became a test case for an ambiguous 2008 state law changing the formula that limits the rates utilities can charge for pole access.