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Telecommunications

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Regulatory and Technical Insight

McNair brings legal capabilities, industry knowledge and long-term client relationships to our telecommunications practice. We represent South Carolina’s more than 20 ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers), the local telephone companies in existence at the time the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted. Our lawyers have advised many of these companies – which include publicly and privately owned businesses and even cooperatives – for more than a quarter of a century, and help them effectively balance today’s complex mix of market economics and public policy.

We have the federal and state regulatory experience (including one team member who served as General Counsel of the South Carolina Public Service Commission) to advise on traditional regulatory concerns such as ratemaking proceedings and administrative litigation. When combined with our understanding of evolving telecom technology (including its integration with Internet and cable television service), McNair’s regulatory know-how helps our clients undertake innovative competitive ventures that gain full public policy approval.

Technological Innovation

In the fast-paced telecom industry, McNair offers clients a competitive advantage by helping them with strategic planning. We use our industry insight to help clients identify where industry technology and marketing innovation is heading, and take advantage of the new conditions. We are involved with helping clients assess whether to make a bid when the Federal Communications Commission offers new broadband spectrum access, and offer practical guidance on whether proposed spectrum access will create overlap problems or will require special purpose joint ventures to pursue. Our independent knowledge of the telecom business is an asset to clients as they anticipate change and evaluate opportunities.

Example of our Services
McNair worked with a number of local telecom companies (many of which were serving remote areas that larger wireless providers ignored) to create a new business entity that successfully participated in the FCC’s lottery of available bandwidth.

Our lawyers structured the entity as a limited partnership, in which the largest companies got adequate proportional representation and while the interests of the smallest companies were still protected. This also provided favorable tax treatment to the participating telecom companies. For more than a decade, we advised this client as it made hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, then orchestrated the profitable buyout of the company when market conditions made that move advisable.

Business Sophistication

Our ILEC clients represent a full spectrum of business entities, and we have the experience to help them no matter what their business needs. Several combine public and private investor ownership, and we provide them with specialized legal advice on financing and fiduciary matters. Others are cooperatives that we advise on the unique provisions of South Carolina laws that govern their tax and business concerns. Still others are family-owned businesses that require our ongoing help with unique governance, tax and wealth management concerns.

For any ILEC client, the key to our business law counsel is facilitating the innovative ownership, financial and operating strategies that support continued technology modernization and service effectiveness. That can also include structuring multi-party joint ventures and partnership agreements (including with nationwide long distance carriers), including wireless service joint ventures with regional bell operating companies. We also help our clients assess merger and acquisition opportunities as acquiring or acquired parties.

Example of our Services
McNair advised a group of ILEC companies on creating a separate business entity dedicated to the installation of fiber optic communication lines. The entity’s line construction encompassed Georgia and North Carolina, as well as South Carolina. Our lawyers assisted with all interstate regulatory issues and on interconnection agreements with long-distance carriers. Currently, we advise on access issues involving high-speed Internet and DSL (digital subscriber line) service.

Regulatory Skill

In addition to FCC regulation at the federal level, our ILEC clients are all subject to state regulation by the South Carolina Public Service Commission. Our years of in-house experience at the PSC combined with decades of work on behalf of telecom clients to provide ILECs with insightful guidance on tariff filings, rate matters and interconnection agreements (including with cable and Internet service providers).

Members of our team have provided clients with representation in hundreds of PSC administrative hearings, and when necessary have appealed (or defended) hearing results through the state court system – up to and including with the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Example of our Services
Our ILEC clients are required to provide universal service and line access, putting them at a market disadvantage to the CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) that have come into existence since the AT&T breakup and that do not have such a mandate.

To level the playing field, McNair took the lead in helping South Carolina establish one of the nation’s first and most effective Universal Service Funds. Our efforts included drafting and lobbying successfully for legislative approval, more than two years of administrative hearings, and final validation of the Fund by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The integrated combination of funding and ratemaking provisions that we spearheaded has put South Carolina in the forefront of universal service innovators, and allows the state’s ILECs to provide full service without sacrificing their financial health.