Feb 07 2019

WASHINGTON, DC—Members of the Amish and Mennonite communities are asking the FCC to protect a free conference call service their members rely on to receive vital news. A Womble Bond Dickinson team led by David Carter and including attorney John Nelson represents a coalition of carriers that help deliver these conference call services, which are used by businesses, political campaigns, government agencies, and religious institutions – including members of the Amish and Mennonite faiths – throughout the country. As part of that representation, David and his team helped members of these communities to offer their unique perspectives to the FCC.

The comments came in response to an FCC proposal to change how call connection charges are billed, which, if adopted, could spell the end for free conference calling services throughout the United States. Since these religious communities do not use the Internet, they could not file their comments directly through the FCC’s online filing system. Instead, many mailed in hand-written notes explaining why free conference call services are a vital lifeline for their communities. More than 1,000 such notes have been received by the FCC in the past few months, revealing how crucial these services are to community members and their collective religious and cultural history.

Indeed, as these letters explain, Amish and Mennonite community members use free conference services for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is to attend religious services and prayer services telephonically. However, these calling services provide other benefits as well, such as the opportunity to engage in collective discussions regarding agricultural services, healthcare services, and family support services. The calls also allow community members to connect with family members and community leaders who live far away, to receive regular news updates from other communities, and to coordinate responses to national disasters.

“The conference call is our means of connecting to friends around the world. As we get older, we cannot always travel to a funeral, so we listen on the conference line,” said Carl Nolt, one of the Amish and Mennonite responders. “Church services, singing groups, news calls, history calls and so much more ... the list could just go on and on.”

Click here to read “Mennonites Say FCC Rule Proposal Harms Their Way of Life” at Law360.

David Carter counsels telecom carriers through a range of business disputes, often against entrenched incumbents and involving new business models and service offerings. As an experienced litigation attorney, David represents carriers in both state and federal courts, as well as before the Federal Communications Commission and state regulatory agencies. His clients include international as well as domestic telecom companies.

John Nelson focuses his practice on guiding clients through sophisticated and complex telecom and Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) litigation disputes. His practice includes representing US and international telecom carriers in both federal and state courts, as well as in regulatory matters before the Federal Communications Commission and state agencies.