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News Release
Commission Seeks Penalty Against Qwest Communications for Failing to File Interconnection Agreements
 
June 20, 2005 (2005 - 014)
 
Contacts:  Lee Beyer, Chairman, 503 378-6611; John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Ray Baum, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
 
Salem, OR - The Oregon Public Utility Commission will ask the Marion Circuit Court to fine Qwest Communications Inc. $1.05 million dollars for failing to file 29 contracts with the Commission, as required by a Administrative rule. The contracts were between Qwest and other telecommunications companies. The Commission approved a stipulation between its Staff and Qwest in which Qwest agreed to the $1.05 million penalty without admitting it engaged in unlawful behavior.
 
The Commission Staff asserted in testimony the contracts were used to settle past billing disputes and provide favorable billing arrangements with companies that lease space on its network. Staff believes the contracts were used in order to gain favor for the company’s merger with US WEST and to avoid opposition to filing with the Federal Communications Commission to enter the intra-state long-distance business.
 
"We expect regulated companies to follow the rules" said Commission Chairman Lee Beyer. "While this is a reasonable resolution in the new competitive telecommunications market we need to ensure there is an even playing field for the companies to compete on," Beyer said. "We need to see these kinds of agreements to ensure that all competitors are offered the same deal and one is not favored over another for whatever reason."
 
In the stipulation reached with the Commission, Qwest does not admit violating the law asserting "that there was reasonable uncertainty about the filing requirements about these agreements until the FCC clarified the documents." Qwest stated it agreed to the stipulation in this case to avoid further litigation with the Commission but disavows the findings by Commission staff.
 
Of the 29 contracts in dispute, the Commission staff classified 13 as major violations and 16 as minor. A violation was classified as major if it favored one telecommunications company over another. A violation was considered minor if it was non-discriminatory. Major violations include a $50,000 penalty and a minor violation $25,000. Oregon law caps potential penalties at $50,000 per violation, and requires that penalties be imposed by a Circuit Court Judge.
 
At the time of these agreements Qwest was managing two major events: (1) the merger of Qwest Communications with U S WEST Inc. and (2) Qwest’s efforts to gain approval to provide long distance services.
 
The Federal Telecommunications Act and a Commission Administrative rule require incumbent local exchange carriers and their competitors to file interconnection agreements with state Commissions. States are to approve or reject these agreements.

Link to full order:
 
http://apps.puc.state.or.us/edockets/orders.asp?ordernumber=05-783
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