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Regulators consider CenturyLink's proposed solution to service complaints

Birds perched on a telephone pole
Alex Grichenko
Birds perched on a telephone line

Montana utility regulators are investigating a legacy telephone and 911 service provider for ongoing service issues in rural Montana.

The Public Service Commission held a hearing Monday in its investigation into CenturyLink’s aging infrastructure and service issue complaints from customers in rural areas like Wibaux County in eastern Montana.

CenturyLink’s proposed solution includes a six year waiver for itself from state service quality standards, which would require pricey equipment installation, and issuance of $1,500 per customer for replacement service from another company.

According to testimony, Centurylink has fewer than 500 eligible customers across the state. CenturyLink public policy director Al Lubick said that the proposed solution is based on the settlement it reached for similar issues in Wyoming.

“To that best that we can see in the pricing online from satellite providers, it pays for voice and broadband,” said Lubick. “To the extent that a customer already has satellite broadband, it’ll pay for voice for years. To the extent they have wireless service that they are okay with, then it would pay for years of wireless.”

Staff with customer advocate and intervenor the Montana Consumer Counsel argue the proposal fails to provide assurance that satellite service would be a reliable alternative for Centurylink’s rural customers.

No action was taken at the hearing.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.