PUC changes may help in local calling area | CraigDailyPress.com

PUC changes may help in local calling area

Lee Harstad

Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rules for local calling areas have changed, and that’s good news for Northwest Colorado.

After the PUC opened a formal proceeding to discuss with the public how to spend $8 million marked for local calling area expansions, residents of Routt and Moffat counties have said they want to expand local calling areas in the 970 and 719 area codes.
This $8 million comes from an $84 million settlement from US West, PUC and the Office of Consumer Counsel. This settlement is meant to provide US West with the ability to adjust prices more quickly to meet competition in local and in-state long distance markets.This $8 million comes from an $84 million settlement from US West, PUC and the Office of Consumer Counsel. This settlement is meant to provide US West with the ability to adjust prices more quickly to meet competition in local and in-state long distance markets.

This $8 million comes from an $84 million settlement from US West, PUC and the Office of Consumer Counsel. This settlement is meant to provide US West with the ability to adjust prices more quickly to meet competition in local and in-state long distance markets.

An informational public meeting was held Oct. 28 in Steamboat Springs. PUC officials hosted the meeting and told people attending about the program and what residents have to do to have local calling areas expanded. PUC officials also modified some criteria for obtaining expansion funds.

“The meeting told us they (PUC) have changed their rules,” Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said. “They have modified these rules so they will take our proposal into consideration.”

Apparently the rules have changed in favor of Routt and Moffat counties. According to Ellison, previously 50 percent or more of the population in one area must make at least two long-distance calls per week. This meant that 50 percent of residents in Craig needed to call Steamboat Springs at least twice a week and vice versa. Moffat and Routt counties were not meeting this goal.

Now the PUC is considering strong arguments even if the previous goal was not met. Because of hard facts such as 60 percent of employees at Cyprus Twentymile Coal company live in Moffat County, three buses run daily from Steamboat Springs to Craig in the winter taking employees to and from their homes and how both counties have organizations working closely with one another, the PUC is considering the Northwest Colorado plan.

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“We don’t have the population numbers like other areas, but there are other determining factors such as the population growth in Steamboat,” Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said.

Ellison also stressed other proponents of the idea in Routt and Moffat counties such as the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, car dealerships, local media and Colorado Northwestern Community College.

In order to be considered to receive funding, written comments must be turned into the PUC by Nov. 30. These comments will be considered and a decision will be made.

“They decided to explain through written comment and testimony that we want to open this area up to a local call,” Raftopoulos said. “The more they (PUC) hear from us the better chance we have.”

Commissioners from both counties are enthusiastic about the PUC expanding the local calling area.

“There is a chance this will work,” Raftopoulos said. “We just have to work hard.”

“There is a good chance Steamboat to Craig will become a local calling area,” Ellison said. “It would open up many more opportunities.”