US West selling off local rural exchanges |

US West selling off local rural exchanges

Phone company cuts back on service

Tyler Baskfield

— US West Communications seems to be pulling the cord on rural Colorado.

US West has recently sold off 60 rural exchanges in Colorado, including five in Northwest Colorado. Exchanges in Maybell, Meeker, Mesa, Oak Creek and Yampa have been sold by the Regional Bell Operating Company (RBOC). This move has sparked some controversy from special interest groups due to US West’s lobby in Washington to escape pro-competitive provisions of the telecommunications act.

US West has not announced any plans to sell the Craig exchange.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was created to stimulate competition in rural telecommunications markets by prohibiting the carrying of telecommunications traffic across Local Access and Transport Areas (LATA) boundaries and requiring companies to make networks available to competitors.

US West believes that the installation of equipment for broadband services to rural areas is not worth the investment unless they are allowed to circumvent the telecommunications act.

Special interest groups believe selling rural exchanges while lobbying the US Congress for special privileges is exploitation of rural customers.

Frontiers of Freedom is one of the groups upset over US West’s portrayal of rural telecommunications to the US Congress. The Wyoming-based foundation is dedicated to protecting constitutional rights of all Americans and restoring constitutional limits on the extent and power of government.

Malcolm Wallop, former Wyoming senator and now chairman of Frontiers of Freedom believes rural America is being taken advantage of.

“US West is pretending to represent the interests of the same rural customers it has dumped by the truckload,” said Wallop.

According to George Landrith, executive director for Frontiers of Freedom. “The absolute gall of them is really amazing,” said Landrith. “The bottom line is it is a hypocrisy. Competition is what is going to help rural America. If US West wants to sell off local exchanges that’s their business, but to then go to Congress and ask for special privileges to help telecommunications to rural America is out of line.”

According to a study done by Economics and Technology Inc. “Building a Broadband America” on rural telecommunications, it is a misconception to think that there will be a critical shortage of broadband service/Internet backbone facilities in rural America.

“The campaign must be recognized for what it is, a transparent attempt to defeat competition through the political process rather than in the market place,” stated the study.

Colorado is not alone in being abandon by US West. The company has sold more than 600 rural exchanges across the West.

US West representatives were unavailable for comment.