CenturyLink Wants Changes To Rule It Says Gives Competitors Unfair Advantage

POSTED: 11:51 AM MDT May 17, 2012    UPDATED: 11:56 AM MDT May 17, 2012 
BOISE, Idaho -

CenturyLink wants to change an Idaho rule that requires regulated landline telecommunications providers to restore outages within certain time frames and provide billing credits to customers when they fail to do so.

In January, CenturyLink (formerly Qwest and also doing business as CenturyTel of the Gem State and CenturyTel of Idaho) asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to be exempted from a commission rule that requires regulated telephone companies to restore outages within 24 hours unless the outage occurs on a weekend. If the company fails to restore service within the rule?s time frames, it must credit customers an amount equal to the rate for one month of basic local exchange service. There are exemptions from the rule if outages are caused by circumstances beyond the company?s control, such as a natural disaster or a when a customer causes the outage or does not make a reasonable effort to arrange a repair visit.

The rule, adopted in 1993, made sense when basic landline service from one provider was all that was available to customers, CenturyLink said, adding that it is now competing against wireless providers, which are not regulated by the Idaho PUC. The company said its workers are taking time to restore landline service to meet the rule?s requirements instead of installing broadband service, which is more important to many customers than landline connections. Competitors are able to fill high-speed Internet service orders more quickly as a result.

The commission rejected complete exemption from the rule because of its concern about customers who do not have access or subscribe to wireless or broadband services.

Now CenturyLink, joined by Frontier Communications Northwest, Citizens Telecommunications Company of Idaho, TDS Telecommunications Corp and the Idaho Telecom Alliance, and commission staff conducted settlement negotiations and are proposing a compromise that extends the response time to 48 hours during the week and removes the requirement that customers receive a billing credit if the new time frames are not met. The same exemptions for natural disaster and customer-caused circumstances would also still apply. The proposed rule would also require that at least 80 percent of out-of-service trouble reports be cleared each month within the specified time frames.

The commission is taking comment on the proposed settlement through May 31. Comments are accepted via email by accessing the commission?s homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on "Comments & Questions About a Case." Fill in the case number (GNR-T-12-03) and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.