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News Release
 
U S WEST Ordered To Fix Roseburg Lines
 
March 3, 1999 (1999-012)
 
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Commission Chair, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Roger Hamilton, Commissioners, 503 378-6611; Ron Karten, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
 
Docket No. UM 928
 
Salem, Ore. – The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) has ordered U S West Communications Inc. to "immediately take whatever actions are necessary" to make sure that Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg has the voice and data phone service it needs.
 
For several months the Medical Center has been getting "all circuits busy" signal that delays dial tone access and has affected the Center’s ability to make telephone calls and contact consulting physicians.
 
The Commission also required U S WEST to complete alterations to its Roseburg central office switch to provide adequate capacity by March 12. And by March 20, it must increase the number of circuits between Roseburg, Sutherlin and Winston to provide the level of service required in Commission rules.
 
The medical center’s phone problems have degenerated to the point where phone users have five- to ten-minute waits before getting a call out. These problems have worsened in recent months.
 
"This needs to be fixed immediately," Ron Eachus, Chairman of the Commission, said. "When an emergency room physician has to wait five to ten minutes for a phone line, it can be life threatening."
 
In an affidavit to the Commission, Mercy General Services Director Anthony Haber said the hospital has experienced problems with telephone service on almost a daily basis the last few months. He said on two occasions staff physicians treating seriously ill patients had difficulty reaching specialty physicians with whom they were consulting.
 
The company said that the capacity problems began after it installed large capacity T-1 lines for internet service providers. "It is very disturbing," said Commissioner Roger Hamilton, "that an internet service may cause the kind of circuit congestion that could cost a patient’s life. It demonstrates a lack of company planning that is completely unacceptable."
 
In February, the Commission received complaints from the city of Sutherlin Police Department, which said that officers were having difficulty reaching the dispatch center in Roseburg between 5 PM and midnight. Congressman Peter DeFazio’s office reported that senior citizens in the area are concerned about the accessibility of 911 services.
 
Commission staff reported that the company’s central office equipment in the area is an outdated analog switch. Even though it is fully depreciated on the company’s books, the company has no immediate plans to replace it. According to staff, the company has chosen to meet increased demand by adding antiquated switching equipment that is no longer being manufactured and must be salvaged from other installations that have been replaced by modern digital switching equipment.
 
The number of circuits between Roseburg, Sutherlin, and Winston are far under the capacity requirements specified in Commission rules. This is also true of long distance circuits to points outside the local area.
 
The Commission’s records show that the company’s network performance started to decline in the area in September 1998. The problem became serious, staff reported, in November. U S WEST responded to the capacity problems as soon as service became unacceptable, but Commissioners said they were concerned that the company had not anticipated the problem, and prevented its occurrence.
 
On April 1, Commission staff will report to the Commission on the company’s progress in the Roseburg area. The Commission also ordered the company to report April 1 on its plans to assure service adequacy from its 11 remaining old analog switches in Oregon. And on May 1, Commission staff will report on the adequacy of the company’s plan for these remaining analog switches.
 
 
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