Ever since all that fiber went into the ground in the late 90s, there have been lawsuits claiming that the telecoms (Qwest, Level 3, and Sprint) played fast and loose with rights-of-way along railroad tracks. It may be that these cases have finally been settled, according to a release from the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Property owners had claimed that their permission was also required to install the fiber, the companies obviously disagreed, and we have been reading about the progress in the cases (or lack thereof) for about a decade.
The terms of the settlement can be found at on their own website, but unless you are a land owner who might get money be prepared to be dissatisfied. Why? Because I can’t find anything to tell me how much the settlement is for in aggregate. The details are there, but they vary not only per state but also by whether the land is covered by pre-1875 grants or post-1875 ones, how many companies installed fiber there, and a myriad of legal gymnastics beyond that. I just don’t have enough information to even get an order of magnitude of the exposure to Qwest, Level 3, and Sprint. It seems to be somewhere between $100K and $1B – yeah, that’s 4 orders of magnitude.
Perhaps we will have to wait until October’s earnings releases to get information on this? Or is the problem that nobody really knows how many property owners will actually submit claims?