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Some Mahoning and Trumbull county landowners will benefit from a railroad's fiber-optic cable plan.



Published: Fri, June 1, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some Mahoning and Trumbull county landowners will benefit from a railroad's fiber-optic cable plan.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- That railroad track running across your back yard just might be a moneymaker.

Notices of a class-action settlement are being mailed out this week to more than 50,000 property owners, including some in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, whose land abuts railroads that will be the site of a fiber-optic network.

The settlement would allow the telecom subsidiary of Norfolk Southern Corp., owner of the nation's four largest railroads, to install bundles of 12 fiber-optic conduits along railroad corridors between major metropolitan areas. The company has agreed to pay the landowners for use of their property.

Any property owner whose land is adjacent to or underlying the specified railroad corridors as of June 5 will qualify to be compensated by Throroughbred Technology and Telecommunications Inc., or T-Cubed, the railroad owner's telecom subsidiary.

Compensation: Atty. Kathleen Kauffman, an attorney for The Ackerson Group, the Washington, D.C., law firm representing the property owners, said those owning property on the side where the cable is installed will gain the most. Those property owners will receive share of a $6,000 per mile guaranteed payment, plus a share of the revenue T-Cubed earns from selling the use of the cable.

Property owners whose land abuts the track on either side -- including those whose land is not on the side where the cable is installed -- will have the opportunity to own equity in a company, Class Corridor LLC, which was formed for their benefit.

"The great thing about this settlement is that it's an opportunity to resolve the landowners' interest from the start," Kauffman said.

Her law firm has 32 similar class-action lawsuits pending, she said, many of which involve companies that installed the cable without the property owners' permission and are now being asked to compensate them.

She said Timothy Elzinga, an Indiana farmer whose property is affected by the railroad owner's fiber-optic plan, initiated the lawsuit after learning that the lines were about to be installed without his approval.

Claims center: T-Cubed and The Ackerson Group set up a claims center that property owners can call if they believe they should be included in the settlement and have not received a notice. The toll-free number to call is (866) 653-5344.

Class members who receive a notice will be included in the settlement if they take no action, but those who do not receive a notice must submit a registration form no later than July 12.

Forms may be obtained by calling the claim center or accessing the settlement Web site, www.fiberopticfundI.com.

vinarsky@vindy.com




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