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Qwest Sues AT&T For Web Phone Access Charges

AT&T's problems with access fees -- the charges it pays to the regional telephone networks -- continued as the Qwest regional telephone network filed suit in federal court demanding that AT&T pay it tens of millions of dollars for calls the long distance firm transmitted over the Internet.

The suit follows a decision last month by the Federal Communications Commission declaring that AT&T, which had suspended payments on those calls, was required to pay for the Web calls. Qwest's filing in federal court in St. Louis this week followed a similar legal action against AT&T by SBC Communications last month.

AT&T pays some $9 billion a year to the regional monopolies -- also including BellSouth and Verizon -- in access fees. AT&T has maintained that charges for Web phoning should be billed at discounted rates, because they travel partially over the Internet and, as such, should be viewed as discounted local calls.