- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The agency that provides 911 services in one of Alabama’s principal cities is accusing a communications firm of failing to pay legally required fees to help fund the emergency operations.

In a federal lawsuit filed this week, the Birmingham Emergency Communications District said Bandwidth.com failed to collect 911 charges on phone lines it provided to customers.

“In doing so, it has deprived the District of the revenue needed to provide critical, lifesaving, emergency services,” the agency states in its lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court.

The company was then able to offer service at a lower cost than telephone companies that complied with Alabama law, Birmingham’s 911 agency maintains.

“These claims are baseless,” Bandwidth.com said in a statement on Thursday.

Bandwidth takes seriously its obligations to collect appropriate taxes from its customers and is confident that its practices comply with the law,” the company added.

Financial statements the company submitted to the 911 district made it appear as though Bandwidth.com offered very little telephone service in Birmingham, but it was “providing substantial service and remitting virtually no 911 charges,” the agency states in the lawsuit.

Bandwidth did provide “more complete and accurate” information during a recent audit of Birmingham’s 911 funding, the lawsuit said.

In January, a group of Georgia cities and counties in Columbus, Macon and the Atlanta area filed a similar lawsuit against Bandwidth.com.

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Bandwidth.com is not the only communications technology firm to face such accusations.

Nearly 40 lawsuits against several telephone service providers have sought to recover more than $100 million for more than 20 local governments in Georgia, former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes said in a statement when the January lawsuits were filed.

Barnes and his law firm, The Barnes Law Group, have been representing Georgia cities and counties that have filed lawsuits over 911 fees.

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