You've heard talk lately about the convergence of electricity and natural gas. That idea has grown as commodity markets have matured for gas and emerged for bulk power.
The Oregon Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has begun formal action against U S WEST Communications, Inc., alleging noncompliance with service-quality standards. The PUC will decide whether to continue, modify, or terminate its regulatory agreement with that company. Staff have recommended that the PUC terminate alternative regulation for U S WEST.
PUC staff first found the company out of compliance with standards in 1994. Although the situation stabilized for a few months, network performance has deteriorated.
PUC chairman Roger Hamilton has expressed a number of concerns: "When we granted the company pricing flexibility and the opportunity for a greater rate of return, they agreed to maintain service quality. Instead, service quality has diminished since the agreement was made in 1991." Hamilton also pointed out an economic development "drag" due to delays in providing businesses with new or additional telephone lines.
Increased complaints over service problems have been noted in all 14 states served by U S WEST, provoking in some heavy fines. A number of excuses have been cited, including lack of facilities and trained personnel as well as a cost-cutting campaign that began just as economies in the western states started booming.
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