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News Release
 
Commission Encouraged By U S WEST Service Quality Progress
 
June 9, 2000 (2000-030)
 
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
 
Salem, OR - Based on new service quality data, there may be light at the end of the tunnel in U S WEST's efforts to improve service for its customers in Oregon, the Oregon Public Utility Commission said today.
 
The Commission acknowledged overall complaints against the Company are down, the performance of switches is improving, and the company is doing a better job filling new orders in timely manner. At the same time though, U S WEST continues to build up automatic fines for failing to meet some standards. Potential fines for violations of statutorily imposed service quality standards have grown to $ 255,000 for the period of January through March. The report for April shows additional potential fines of $95,000.
 
The quarterly service quality report presented to the Commission indicated the Company is meeting 5 of 7 Commission-set standards.
 
The fines for the most critical standards are related to network blocking in the Company's wire centers. Network blocking gives callers a "fast busy" signal or "all circuits busy message," which continues to be an issue in several communities including Roseburg and Grants Pass. Most of the blocking problems are due to internet use in remaining, older analog switches. The Company provided the Commission with a schedule to replace most of the older switches with digital switches by the end of the year.
 
"They should have replaced the switches earlier, but I expect that by the end of the year, generally the company should be in compliance and on par with the other companies in Oregon," Commission Chairman Ron Eachus said. "It's taken 10 years, but the company is finally providing as good of service as it did in 1991 and seems to have enough resources to respond to customers' problems."
 
Commissioner Roger Hamilton added, "The Company will be challenged in Oregon where quality telecom services are highly valued. But today's report confirms that U S WEST has effectively responded to customer demand and Commission pressure for improved service quality."
 
Another Commission concern is customers waiting too long to get through to the business office. The standard says 75 percent of calls to the sales office will be answered within 20 seconds. US WEST fell short of the standard in the months of January, February and March.
 
A Company representative warned it would likely continue to remain out of compliance through the end of the year due to high employee turnover in the business office and a tight labor market.
The Commission will continue to hold quarterly service meetings with the Company through the end of the year in order to monitor service quality.
 
 
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