TURN Wins CPUC Investigation Into Rural Call Quality

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Thursday, December 15, 2016, San Francisco--TURN and a coalition of community groups representing rural customers statewide today applauded the CPUC’s decision to order an investigation into service problems that have plagued rural areas of California. The goal of the investigation is to uncover and address the urgent public safety problems created by unreliable phone service in rural areas, and major outages experienced by southern California consumers since Frontier bought Verizon’s local network.

Phone service outages have prevented customers from completing 9-1-1 calls and created additional challenges for safety officials and the public in coping with emergences. Advocates have been urging the California Public Utilities Commission to require phone companies to report outages and hazardous conditions, and to report on maintenance practices. Today the Commission agreed, requiring carriers to report data about phone outages to the CPUC and work collaboratively with public safety officials from communities throughout the state to insure local officials are fully informed about problems with telecommunications services.  Importantly, the decision requires telecom companies to provide local emergency officials with a 24-hour contact number to obtain information about outages and repair of hazardous conditions.

“Universal service guarantees are especially vital to the health of rural communities,” said TURN telecommunications director Regina Costa. “The CPUC heard testimony from rural consumers in Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, Amador, Siskyou and other areas describing the difficulties created by phone outages. Substandard service and shoddy maintenance should not be allowed to threaten Californians’ ability to seek assistance in emergency. The Commission can do more to protect consumers’ safety, and with today’s decision will be able to move forward.”

The decision also calls for further investigation into the problems faced by customers with the transfer of Verizon customers to Frontier, causing many customers to lose video, broadband and phone service. TURN urged the Commission to learn from experience and change its approach to future mergers so that the problems are not repeated. “We are pleased that the CPUC adopted our proposal,” Costa said.