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News Release
 
Oakridge Special Public Meeting 
To Look At Telephone Infrastructure Issues

 
March 29, 1999 (1999-014)
 
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, commissioner, 503 378-6611; Ron Karten, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
 
Salem, Ore. – The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) is scheduled to hold a Special Public Meeting in Oakridge to hear from the community about telecommunications infrastructure and service quality problems. Commissioners will convene the hearing at the City Fire Hall on Wednesday evening, March 31 at 7:00 PM.
 
In addition to Commission comment on the recent history of U S WEST service quality problems in the area, the meeting will include comments by Oakridge Mayor Don Hampton and Ruth Ann Howden of the Eugene Free Community Network. Other elected officials representing the area also have been invited to attend and speak.
 
The Special Public Meeting comes in response to numerous complaints about the service quality in the area provided by U S WEST Communications Inc. According to complaints the Commission has received in recent months, the company has failed to provide internet and other digital services to customers.
 
The Commission has determined that the failure comes from a lack of circuits between the switches in Oakridge and Eugene. The same problem exists between Sutherlin and Roseburg and between Florence and both Corvallis and Eugene.
 
Across the state, U S WEST is operating outdated analog switching equipment in 11 wire centers, including Klamath Falls, Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Springfield, Corvallis, Albany, Oregon City and three in Portland. According to Commission staff, the company has been getting $14 million annually in over-recovery of expenses because depreciation in rates assumed replacement of the switches. The company promised to replace 13 analog switches with digital switches between 1996-2000, but only two have been replaced, and the company has not announced plans to replace any of the others. The analog switches are so old that parts are no longer made for repair or replacement.
 
In addition, the company’s 1998 Construction budget reported planned upgrades to switches serving Pendleton and Baker City, Roseburg and Oakridge but neither were completed and both areas are now experiencing capacity shortages. The Commission has opened an investigation into the company’s 1998 and 1999 Construction budgets to see if other areas of the state might soon be facing similar problems for similar reasons.
 
Across the state for the last three years, no more than 20 of the company’s 77 switches have at any one time met Commission standards requiring less than two complaints per 100 lines on a 12-month rolling average.
 
Early this month, the Commission ordered U S WEST to "immediately take whatever actions are necessary" to ensure that Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg receive the voice and data phone service it needs. The Commission also required the company to complete alterations to its Roseburg central office switch to provide adequate capacity by March 12. The company was ordered to increase, by March 20, the number of circuits between Roseburg, Sutherlin and Winston in order to provide the level of service required in Commission rules.
 
Following the March 20 deadline, the Commission’s senior Telecommunications engineer investigated the company’s central offices in the Roseburg and Sutherlin areas to insure that the work had been completed. While Roseburg lines are much improved, they still need work. The Roseburg-Sutherlin route remains in need of immediate augmentation due to lack of capacity.
This is one of four telecommunications infrastructure meetings the Commission has scheduled. The Commission was in La Grande on March 18, and will be in Roseburg, on April 8, and in Newport on April 29.
 
 
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