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News Release
Commission Orders U S WEST To
Put Switch Replacement In Writing

June 25, 1999 (1999-028)
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 today ordered US WEST Communications to provide firm written commitments that old analog switches in eleven communities would be replaced with new digital switches by the end of 2002.
The company has publicly stated its intent to replace the switches but has also claimed in communications to the Commission that the company "cannot and will not make any promises or warranties that these schedules will actually be fulfilled."
"We wanted to make sure that the public commitments made to these communities would in fact be carried out and that priorities wouldn’t be reordered at the last minute," Commission chairman Ron Eachus said. "We had instances in the past when commitments weren’t kept."
US WEST had indicated in a public meeting last Tuesday that it fully intended to complete the replacement on schedule and that it would provide written commitments if ordered to do so by the Commission.
The Commission acknowledged that it had received sufficient written commitment for switches in Springfield, Roseburg, Grants Pass and Albany.
"The company was telling legislators the switches would be replaced, but then they’d give us a lot of equivocating language," Eachus said. "Finally we got a statement without caveats for those communities. Now we expect it will be forthcoming for the others as well."
The company plans to replace its switch in Springfield by the end of this year. Roseburg, Grants Pass and Albany switches are scheduled for replacement by year end 2000. Switches in Corvallis, Klamath Falls, Medford, Oregon City, Portland-Butler, Portland-Cherry and Portland-Prospect are scheduled to be replaced by year end 2002, with the majority to be completed by year end 2001.
US WEST is the only telephone company in Oregon still using analog switches. Digital switches will enable increased capacity and additional advanced services.
The switch replacement has been an issue between the Commission and the company because the OPUC granted US WEST $14 million in advance depreciation for replacement of 13 switches between 1996 and 1999 but only two were actually replaced.
Earlier this year consumers in the Roseburg and Grants Pass areas experienced several months of excessive call blockage due to capacity constraints on the analog switches in those communities.
The order requires US WEST to provide "milestone" dates by August 1, 1999, followed by firm installation dates as soon as the information is available.
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