Suffolk officials are looking to recover nearly $1.5 million from T-Mobile, which supplies wireless voice messaging and data services, because the firm was paying the county a lower rate than it should for having cell towers on county-owned land.
County information technology officials, testifying before county lawmakers last week disclosed that the county has already recovered nearly $680,000 from the telecommunications giant for underpayments made from 2010 to 2015, which were refunded last September.
Vanessa Baird Streeter, a spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone, also said the county is still negotiating on even older bills, from 2002 to 2007, for which county officials estimates T-Mobile owes another $800.000. In addition to the refunds, she said the county projects that the adjustments, going forward, would increase annual county revenue on county owned cell tower sites by $122,000 for 2016.
In all, information technology officials say the county brings in about $900,000 a year in revenues from allowing private cell providers to use county land for cell towers.
Officials say payment problems occurred because T-Mobile under its county contract was paying Suffolk incorrectly, based on a rate that required the firm to have 16 sites on county land when they should have paying a higher rate because it only had 10 or fewer sites.
Vincent Mezzanotte, IT commissioner, said the problem was discovered when his staff was doing a routine review of the contract last year. He said that T-Mobile originally planned to have more sites when the agreement was made, but some of those sites never materialized.
A T-Mobile spokesperson at corporate headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., said, “We are simply making sure our facility lease accounts are up to date with Suffolk County.”