Complaints spark IURC to limit telecom’s service territory

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has severely limited a local telecommunications firm’s license to provide services statewide after concluding it violated agency orders.

E.Com Technologies LLC, better known as FirstMile Technologies, is the exclusive telecom provider of the 1,017-resident Centennial subdivision in Westfield, as well as a half-dozen other residential developments in central Indiana.

The company, which also serves commercial customers, was started in the late 1990s by Carmel-based homebuilder The Estridge Cos. E.Com was founded by Estridge President Paul Estridge Jr., and is one of the homebuilder's subsidiaries.

The IURC on Feb. 9 rejected E.Com’s request for the agency to reconsider an order it first issued in October that limited the company’s territory to provide telecom services to only those areas it currently serves.

The IURC further directed E.Com to return to the agency to seek permission for future expansion—an additional step it previously didn’t have to take.

“We think this will slow down the opportunity to offer another choice to customers,” E.Com’s lawyer, Dick Aikman, said. “If the regulatory process doesn’t happen fast enough, we’ll lose that opportunity.”

The IURC issued the initial order against E.Com because it found the company had a history of anti-competitive business practices.

“E.Com is still the only facility-based terrestrial provider in the Centennial development because its competitors never had a reasonable opportunity to build out facilities, enter the market and compete for customers without having to incur a significant cost disadvantage,” the IURC wrote in its order.

The order stems from an IURC investigation it launched in October 2009 after several Centennial homeowners complained about E.Com’s services.

Estridge won industry kudos in the late 1990s for efforts to wire the Centennial development from the start with high-speed Internet connections that most phone carriers weren’t offering at the time.

In the years since, those phone carriers, along with cable television companies, caught up and surpassed the capabilities of FirstMile, said the homeowners. About 170 signed a petition demanding the IURC investigate what they considered a monopoly situation.

Ordinarily, the solution would be for a homeowner to call another provider for service. But that’s not so easy at Centennial, where only FirstMile’s wires, not those of local phone or cable companies, were buried underneath sidewalks and driveways when the development was constructed.

“There has been no evidence offered that AT&T and Verizon were offered access to E.Com’s facilities in the Centennial development prior to the trenches being closed,” the IURC wrote.

Also, IURC accused E.Com of violating its order requiring the company to notify potential homebuyers in Centennial that it is the sole provider of telecom services in the neighborhood.

E.Com told the IURC that Estridge quit notifying potential residents of its exclusive deal in early 2005 when the homebuilder moved its Centennial sales office to the Clay Terrace shopping center in Carmel. In testimony, E.Com said Estridge didn't inform E.Com of that decision.

The roots of the dispute run deeper. In 2000, IURC chided FirstMile for installing its system without state approval. The agency said it hoped in the future that Estridge and other developers would allow open access to other telecom providers when the conduits running through a development were still accessible.

At the time, IURC issued an order attempting to place E.Com in the position of an “incumbent” provider and required it to give other providers access to its facilities. That was done to ensure E.Com was treated the same way as other providers with monopolies in their service territories.

In addition in 2000, IURC gave E.Com approval to offer telecom services statewide.

But the state agency said it made a mistake with that decision upon curtailing its service territory in October.

“As it turns out, the Commission’s faith was misplaced,” it said in the ruling. “Anticompetitive behavior turns out not to be a function of the size of the provider.”

E.Com has filed for the Indiana Court of Appeals to hear the case.



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.