Qwest drops appeal of franchise fees

ASHLAND — Qwest Corporation has ended a seven-year court fight over fees paid to many cities in Oregon, including Ashland.

The League of Oregon Cities announced earlier this month that Qwest withdrew its appeal of a 2006 court ruling that was in favor of the cities. The league had coordinated the intervention of eight cities in the lawsuit. Qwest began the litigation in 2001.

Cities like Ashland charge Qwest and other telecommunications companies franchise fees for the use of city streets, where the companies bury their utility lines. The franchise fees show up on the bills of the companies' customers.

City Attorney Richard Appicello estimated Qwest pays the city of Ashland about $100,000 to $140,000 each year in franchise fees.

He said Qwest has been making the payments to the city during the court fight.

The total amount Qwest pays to cities in the state amounts to millions of dollars, according to the League of Oregon Cities.

"In the end, this is a victory for local control," La Grande Mayor Colleen Johnson, chairwoman of the League of Oregon Cities Telecommunications Committee, said in a statement. "During the current economic downturn, the ability of local governments to manage their public infrastructure is critical in maintaining the quality of life and managing economic development opportunities in our communities."

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