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James W. Tomlinson

Jim Tomlinson draws on 30 years of experience in the communications industry and 20 years of experience as a communications lawyer to help clients with a wide range of telecommunications and cable issues, including federal, state, and local regulatory matters, programming network issues, and contract negotiation and enforcement. Jim’s clients include wireless carriers, VoIP providers, competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), and cable and broadband providers. As a former senior in-house counsel for an international telecommunications provider, Jim has extensive practical experience with commercial and regulatory legal issues for telecommunications clients. Prior to practicing law, Jim was a systems engineer, corporate account manager and network planner with a large telecommunications company, giving him an in-depth understanding of broadband networks and business issues facing communications companies.

Jim is a core member of DWT’s Lifeline program team, which advises eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) on a wide variety of the arcane legal and business operational issues involving the federal Lifeline program. Jim regularly assists top-10 ETCs and smaller carriers obtain state and federal ETC designations; respond to regulatory inquiries, maintain regulatory compliance and advocate their positions with key Lifeline decision-makers at the FCC. In addition, Jim is a “go to” lawyer for helping clients respond to Lifeline audits conducted by USAC and other regulatory bodies.

Jim is an active member of the firm’s E-Rate Program team. He counsels school districts and E-Rate service providers—both cable operators and telecom providers—about E-Rate compliance, contract/competitive bidding disputes, appeals, waivers, and audits.

Jim advises cable television, telecommunications, and wireless providers on outside plant deployment issues. Jim regularly performs complex pole attachment rate calculations and analysis. Jim has negotiated numerous pole attachment and conduit agreements and represents communications companies before the FCC and state regulatory agencies in regulatory litigation and rulemakings involving pole attachments.

Jim also counsels competitive telecommunications, VoIP and broadband service providers on a wide range of telecommunications competition and broadband policy matters, including market entry, licensing and tariff obligations, commercial disputes, and subscriber privacy issues under federal and state communications law. His work in this area involves drafting subscriber agreements, privacy policies, acceptable use policies, and other related documents for communications entities.

Jim posts frequent updates on DWT’s communications law blogs, including Broadband Deployment Law Advisor, Open Internet Law AdvisorLifeline Law Advisor, and E-Rate Law Advisor.

Representative Experience

Lifeline Program

ETC designation and FCC compliance plans

Acts as national counsel for Lifeline providers and coordinates with a network of local firms, as needed. Extensive experience preparing FCC compliance plans for ETCs. (Ongoing)

Regulatory compliance

Guides clients through the maze of FCC Lifeline regulations, which affect all aspects of a Lifeline provider’s business, including marketing, service plans, customer eligibility and enrollment, service terms and conditions, customer service, and handset distribution. (Ongoing)

Audits and regulatory inquiries

Assists client with responding to Lifeline-related regulatory inquiries and audits, including those from the FCC and the administrator of the Lifeline program (USAC). (Ongoing)


Assists Lifeline clients shape the direction of federal or state Lifeline rules by preparing comments or by meeting directly with key Lifeline decision-makers. (Ongoing)

Communications Regulatory

FCC rulemakings for communications companies

Represented communications companies in a number of FCC rulemakings including those relating to special access, intercarrier compensation, numbering, local number portability and telemarketing.

Cable broadcast signal carriage disputes for cable operators and cable networks

Represented cable operators and cable networks in FCC complaint and rulemaking proceedings concerning must carry and retransmission consent rules.

Pole Attachments

Pole attachment and conduit rate analysis for cable television, broadband and wireless providers

Assists clients with complex pole attachment and conduit rate analysis using formulas prescribed by the FCC and various state commissions. Performed detailed analysis and critique of pole attachment and conduit rate calculations prepared by pole owners. (Ongoing)

Pole attachment agreements for cable television, broadband and wireless providers

Negotiates agreements on behalf of broadband and wireless clients, including state broadband and cable associations, for pole attachments and help to resolve disputes concerning pole attachment agreement rates, and terms and conditions of carriage. (Ongoing)

Pole attachment and conduit rulemakings for cable television, broadband and wireless providers

Assists clients with participation in federal and state pole attachment and conduit rulemakings to ensure that communications clients obtain access to essential outside plant infrastructure on just and reasonable rates, and terms and conditions. (Ongoing)

Additional Qualifications

  • Associate, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, 2007-2014
  • Associate, Cole, Raywid & Braverman, LLP, 2002-2006
  • Assistant General Counsel, Primus Telecommunications Group, Inc., 2002-2001
  • Associate, Cole, Raywid & Braverman, LLP, 1996-1999
  • Corporate Account Manager, Verizon Communications (Large Business Marketing Department), 1993-1994
  • Systems Engineer, Verizon Communications (Large Business Marketing Department), 1989-1992, 1995
  • Engineer, Network Planner, Verizon Communications (Network Operations Department), 1986-1988

Professional & Community Activities

  • Federal Communications Bar Association
  • District of Columbia Bar Association
  • Member, Board of Directors and Chair, Tennis Committee, Tuckahoe Recreation Club, McLean, Va., 2010-2014 
blog for insight and commentary on the deployment of communications infrastructure
 e-rate program blog
lifeline program blog