PRESCOTT, Ariz. (CN) - Pointing out that its satellites are 22,236 miles above the Earth - not on the Hopi Reservation - Dish Network sued the tribe in Federal Court, challenging its $500 annual fee to provide satellite television service on the rez.
Dish Network, which listed the fair market value of its assets at $2.4 billion in its annual report for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, sued the top three members of the Hopi Tribe's Office of Revenue Commission, claiming the $500 annual licensing fee violates federal law.
Dish Network claims that fewer than 900 of its 14 million U.S. subscribers live on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona.
The tribe first charged the fee in 2009, then sued Dish Network in Tribal Court in December 2011, seeking an injunction ordering Dish to get a business license and pay an annual fee, plus "a $500 a day penalty for failure to obtain a license and pay
the annual fee in the past," according to the complaint.
Dish Network claims that only the Federal Communications Commission has power to regulate "direct-to-home satellite services," and that, by the nature of its service, Dish has no actual presence on the remote Hopi Reservation.
"In fact, DISH's satellites are 'geostationary,' meaning they move at the same velocity as the Earth itself, and therefore are stationed at a fixed longitude, some 22,236 miles above the Earth's equator," according to the complaint. "The programming is uplinked to these satellites from uplink centers in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Gilbert, Arizona, among other locations, none of which is situated on the Reservation. In turn, the several hundreds of programming networks that constitute DISH's DBS service travel to these uplink centers from points in the United States and abroad, none of which is on the reservation."
Dish seeks declaratory judgment that the Hopi lack the authority to charge the fee, and an injunction to stop it from doing so.
Dish Network is represented by Peter Kozinets, with Steptoe & Johnson in Phoenix.
The Hopi Reservation is about 1.5 million acres of land within the much larger Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona. Members of the tribe live in 12 villages scattered across three high mesas.