The gavel came down hard this week as the State Supreme Court handed a victory to Dobson Telephone Company in McLoud in a nearly 5-year old fight with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
And in doing so, the Court scolded the Commission for its 2-1 vote and denial of Dobson’s request for $95,417.92 in funding from the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund.
Dobson had sought the funding after it had been asked in 2011 by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to move telephone lines on a public right-of-way along State Highway 62 in Lincoln County. But it was denied in 2017.
Justice James R. Winchester, writing for the majority stated, “The Commission’s wholesale denial of Dobson’s request was in error.”
An Administrative Law Judge at the Commission had recommended that the payment to cover reimbursement of costs should be covered. But two commissioners felt Dobson’s request was not sufficiently supported by evidence because confidential information reviewed by the Commission’s Administrator was not included in the record before the Commission.
The court found otherwise.
” The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that although the Commission was not bound by the Administrator’s recommendation, the record reflected ample evidence with which to support the Administrator’s determination.”
And Justice Doug Combs added his criticism of the commission.
” I concur in the majority opinion but write separately to emphasize the audacity of the Commission’s blanket denial of Appellant’s, Dobson Telephone Company d/b/a/ McCloud Telephone Company, application.”
He went on to point out the legislature established the process for a rural provider to be reimbursed from the OUSF so it can provide reliable and affordable telephone service to Oklahomans in remote and underserved areas.
“The Commission’s majority all but ignored the evidence presented ostensibly because of a fundamental disagreement with the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund. This is nothing more than an attempt to further disenfranchise rural Oklahoma from basic telephone services,” wrote Justice Combs.