Let’s say your land-line only telephone service was “intermittent” and subject to frequent, repeated outages. It’s pretty hard to do much business because customers never know if their calls will even go through—not to mention having to worry about whether or not it might actually be impossible to call 911 if you needed to.
You see, there’s a massive multi-national company called CenturyLink with a massive share of Montana customers–especially in rural Montana. (They had 270,000 lines after CenturyLink and Qwest merged a few years back—I don’t know how many now.) It is, for many people, a de-facto monopoly – there are no other options. It’s the third-largest wireline telecom company in the U.S. Sure many areas have cell phone service, but not all, for example along the Missouri River canyon and in Essex, MT.
Montana’s Public Service Commission has this issue on the agenda tomorrow (Tuesday), and the PSC will vote tomorrow whether or not to enforce the the laws against charging people a lot of money for phone service they aren’t getting.
Our laws gave the PSC the authority to have a court impose a fine CenturyLink for each out-of-service call that they don’t repair during the required timeframe. Here’s why: If the rules aren’t enforced, this company has no motivation to do anything other than continue to raise our rates while their equipment rots and our phones blink out.
To be sure, a vote against holding this company accountable is likely to become a major campaign issue – and many of these guys are going to have formidable opponents —look who’s running against Koopman, for example. Also Brad Johnson is running for Governor.
So we will see what our PSC will do Tuesday—whether going to address this sad pattern of customer abuse or whether they’ll simply make excuses for continuing to do nothing. They’ve been studying this issue for years, so at this point they really can’t justify refusing to do something under the guise of delay. CenturyLink has the opportunity to address the issue through federal grants that are available to fix phone service in rural areas, which they should definitely do.
This is the PSC’s second agenda item for 7-21-15:
D2014.11.91 – CenturyLink QC – CenturyLink Service Quality – Discuss and decide whether the Commission should initiate an action in District Court to levy fines on CenturyLink QC for violation of PSC rule ARM 38.5.3371(7)(b) – 90% of Out of Service Trouble Reports shall be cleared within 24 hours. (7/21/15)