Verizon Communications, Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 imposes upon an incumbent local exchange carrier (LEC) the obligation to share its telephone network with competitors, 47 U. S. C. §251(c), including the duty to provide access to individual network elements on an “unbundled†basis, see §251(c)(3). New entrants, so-called competitive LECs, combine and resell these unbundled network elements (UNEs). Petitioner Verizon Communications Inc., the incumbent LEC in New York State, has signed interconnection agreements with rivals such as AT&T, as §252 obliges it to do, detailing the terms on which it will make its network elements available. Part of Verizon’s §251(c)(3) UNE obligation is the provision of access to operations support systems (OSS), without which a rival cannot fill its customers’ orders. Verizon’s interconnection agreement, approved by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), and its authorization to provide long-distance service, approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), each specified the mechanics by which its OSS obligation would be met. When competitive LECs complained that Verizon was violating that obligation, the PSC and FCC opened parallel investigations, which led to the imposition of financial penalties, remediation measures, and additional reporting requirements on Verizon. Respondent, a local telephone service customer of AT&T, then filed this class action alleging, inter alia, that Verizon had filled rivals’ orders on a discriminatory basis as part of an anticompetitive scheme to discourage customers from becoming or remaining customers of competitive LECs in violation of §2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U. S. C. §2. The District Court dismissed the complaint, concluding that respondent’s allegations of deficient assistance to rivals failed to satisfy §2’s requirements. The Second Circuit reinstated the antitrust claim.

Held: Respondent’s complaint alleging breach of an incumbent LEC’s 1996 Act duty to share its network with competitors does not state a claim under §2 of the Sherman Act. Pp. 5–16.

   (a) The 1996 Act has no effect upon the application of traditional antitrust principles. Its saving clause—which provides that “nothing in this Act … shall be construed to modify, impair, or supersede the applicability of any of the antitrust laws,†47 U. S. C. §152, note—preserves claims that satisfy established antitrust standards, but does not create new claims that go beyond those standards. Pp. 5–7.