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News Release
Commission Plans Grants Pass Public Meeting
To Hear Telephone Complaints

June 8, 1999 (1999-023)
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Phil Nyegaard, Telecommunications Administrator, 503 378-6436; Ron Karten, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
alem, Ore. – The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) said today it will hold a hearing in Grants Pass on the quality of U S WEST Communications, Inc. telephone service because the area has experienced eight straight months of substandard service.
A date and time for the hearing will be announced later.
"U S WEST is working on improvements, but the community has been subjected to substandard service in the network for most of the past year and a half," said Commission Chairman Ron Eachus. "Even if the company fixes the problem in the future, community members are due an opportunity to express their grievances as well as an explanation and some remedy from the company."
U S WEST reported data to the Commission shows that from September, 1998 through April, 1999, the Grants Pass network switch had call blocking levels well below the Commission standards. In 15 of the last 16 months, the company has failed to meet the standards, with 13 of those months well below the standard. Complaints about "circuits busy" signals from the Grants Pass area to the Commission went up from 22 in all of the 1998 to 89 in the first five months of 1999.
U S WEST is scheduled to complete an upgrade of the current analog switch in July. The company recently announced it would replace the switch with a newer digital one in the year 2000.
However, the company has so far refused to provide a written commitment, as requested by the Commission, that the new switch would be installed in that time frame. The Commission asked for the commitment because in service quality upgrade reports for the Roseburg area, the company said it was making "no representation or commitment – either expressed or implied – that the construction projects submitted to the Commission will, in fact, be completed."
"We hope that direct testimony by U S WEST customers will assist the company in understanding the magnitude of the problem and the needs of the community," said Commissioner Roger Hamilton.
The Roseburg area experienced several months of excessive call blocking that was at times life-threatening. In Roseburg, the company and the Commission staff have agreed upon an expedited complaint process in which customers documenting unsatisfactory service can receive credits on their bills.
The Commission is investigating the company’s construction budget, particularly as it relates to replacement of the company’s remaining analog switches.
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