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News Release
 
U S WEST Service Still Lags
 
August 19, 1999 (1999-033)
 
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. – On a 12-month rolling average, a standard designed to ensure consistently good service, U S WEST wire centers have shown no significant improvement in the last three months, and too many customers continue to wait too long for the company to answer calls to its business office, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) learned at yesterday’s quarterly service quality meeting.
 
The company reported that 18 of its 77 wire centers across the state met the Commission’s rolling average standard in May and June this year. Wire centers are locations where calls go through electronic switches on the way to their destinations. Only about 25 percent of U S WEST lines are routed through wire centers that meet Commission standards.
 
Commission standards require that all local phone companies maintain their facilities and customer lines so that they receive fewer than two trouble reports for every 100 lines on the basis of a 12-month rolling average.
 
The Commission chairman said he was disappointed but not surprised at the latest central office numbers. "It’s like they are stuck in time," he said. "It’s been over two-and-a-half years since we put our standards in place and three quarters of the lines still go through wire centers that fail the standards."
 
The company’s business office responded quickly enough to residential customer calls only 45 percent of the time. That is only slightly better than the level the company achieved during the employee strike last summer. The Commission requires that the company respond to customer calls within 20 seconds 85 percent of the time. For business customers, U S WEST reached the 20-second standard about 80 percent of the time.
 
The company met or exceeded Commission standards in a number of areas. Held orders meet Commission standards, which require no more than 154 held orders a month. For June, the company reported 118 held orders, which are installation promises not met by the company within five days of the order. A 21-month agreement between the Commission and the company set to end in September called for penalties if the company failed to meet a succession of targets leading to the standard. Critical held orders, which are held orders more than 30 days old, also now exceed the agreed upon target.
 
The company is also in compliance with other service quality standards. The company met its commitments to provide service to customers in more than 90 percent of the requests it received. The company also exceeded the standard requiring that 95% of trouble reports be cleared within 48 hours.
 
Under SB 622, passed by the 1999 Legislature, the Commission is obligated to try and negotiate with U S WEST a plan for future compliance with service standards. "When we look at any plan to meet our standards in the future, we’ll have to look at potential penalties for the past as well," Eachus said.
 
U S WEST is the only telephone utility in Oregon ordered to provide the Commission with quarterly service quality updates, a practice started early in the 1990s when the company’s service quality was deemed consistently inadequate and showed no signs of improving. The Commission also has ordered service quality meetings for GTE in the past.
 
The Commission now has information on consumer complaints on its website.
 
 
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