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News Release
 
Commission Opens Investigation Of U S WEST Construction Budget
 
March 16, 1999 (1999-013)
 
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
 
Salem, Ore. – The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) today opened an investigation into the 1998 and 1999 construction budgets of U S WEST Communications, Inc. after receiving a formal complaint from the US Forest Service which detailed the company’s failure to provide adequate facilities.
 
James D. Grubb, Telecommunications Specialists for Region 6 of the Forest Service, covering Oregon and Washington, filed the complaint and requested that the Commission require U S WEST "to meet its obligation to provide timely service at reasonable cost in its service areas." The Forest Service is a division of the US Department of Agriculture.
 
The Commission opened an investigation of the construction budgets because U S WEST had not followed through on planned construction projects in 1998 that could have alleviated some of the problems.
 
PUC staff engineer Woody Birko said that if the planned projects had been completed the Forest Service wouldn’t have problems nor would the communities of La Grande and Oakridge.
 
Among the communities affected, Birko named those served by the Pendleton-Baker City, Springfield-Lowell, Eugene-Lowell, Eugene-Florence, and Eugene-Newport connections. He said that $4 million worth of projects had been left undone. A U S WEST representative could not confirm that any of these projects would be done in 1999.
 
"The company has obviously declined to improve service in some areas and it’s time to investigate what’s behind their decisions to withhold investments and whether they’re living up to their obligation to provide service in their territory," said Ron Eachus, Commission Chairman.
 
"This complaint reinforces our perception of facilities problems that we’ve already seen across the state with U S WEST facilities," said Commissioner Roger Hamilton.
 
The complaint specifically cited the company for denying the federal agency additional digital access to the Mapleton Ranger District in Florence. "Their representatives have informed us that our order is on hold indefinitely due to a lack of facilities between Eugene and Florence," said Grubb.
 
The Forest Service needs the new service to improve data flow between its main computers at Forest headquarters in Corvallis and employee desktop computers at the District office in Florence.
 
The complaint will now be investigated by Commission staff.
 
In addition, Grubb cited other facility problems encountered by the Forest Service this year:
  • Both the Forest Service and its long distance service providers have been denied access due to lack of capacity on U S WEST’s microwave Radio System between Baker City and Pendleton.

  • A Forest Service order to MCI Worldcom for a data service called frame relay in Baker City could not be completed due to a lack of US WEST facilities.

  • Line requests between Forest Service offices in Eugene and MacKenzie have suffered from multiple install dates, multiple circuit failures, and unreliable service.

  • In Portland, U S WEST no longer recognizes the Forest Service Regional Office at 333 SW First Ave, because the Service no longer uses U S WEST voice service.

  • The Forest Service’s needs for digital access to its new ranger station in Oakridge have not yet been supplied, though there is apparently bandwidth available in the area.

  • After a long delay, a radio circuit from a Forest Service office to the Baker County Sheriff’s office was resolved.
 
Underscoring the importance of the company’s continued failure to provide safe, reliable service to the public, as required by their certification, Commissioner Joan H. Smith said, "Perhaps it is time to consider giving this territory to an entity that is willing to provide the service."
 
 
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