Note to fiber companies: Don't be thinking you can just railroad those landowners. A federal judge just approved a class action settlement allowing 50,000 landowners in 15 states to get a piece of an effort to lay fiber through their properties.
The settlement stems from a fiber optic project by railroader Norfolk Southern Corp. and its telecom subsidiary Thoroughbred Technologies and Telecommunications, or TCubed, says Nels Ackerson, lead attorney and chair of law firm The Ackerson Group in Washington, D.C.
The project was to run alongside 2,500 miles of railroad tracks through 15 states. Landowners along one side would lose their land to the project; landowners on the other side were threatened with the loss and would continue to be threatened in the future, Ackerson says. Frequently, the tracks divide property lines.
Headed by a Dyer, Ind., landowner, a group of 50,000 people who owned land along the route filed the lawsuit, enjoining the project and preventing construction, Ackerson says. In other words, the landowners wanted a piece of the action.
Under the settlement, the group will form Class Corridors, a limited liability firm, and will receive an initial payment of $6,000 per mile.
The new company receives fiber rights to three of TCube's conduits, another 16 strands of fiber for no extra charge, and certain other rights. Because of the variables involved in the industry, company and fiber corridor, Ackerson wouldn't put a solid figure on the deal. The rights to the conduits and fiber could add roughly $25,000 per mile to the initial payment. Ackerson says economists place the value at potentially double the $31,000.
The payments will come from TCubed.
Ackerson says the company has established a board of advisors who will help set up management and a board of directors for the new company.