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3 GROUPS DISCUSS PHONE SERVICE FACE TO FACE THOUGH MILES APART

Residents in Uintah and Duchesne counties met face-to-face with the Utah Public Service Commission Tuesday night, though the three groups were actually miles apart.

The commission used the state's distance learning network - called EDNET - at the University of Utah to give Utahns gathered at Uintah High in Vernal and the Uintah Basin Applied Technology Center in Roosevelt an opportunity to comment on telephone service in their area.EDNET provides a two-way audio-visual link that allows those in both locations to see and hear each other. EDNET consists of a series of telephone and microwave links that state officials hope will eventually connect all the state's universities, colleges, high schools and applied technology centers.

Tuesday's session was one of seven the commission has held around the state to get comment on the status of telephone service, especially in rural areas.

As in previous meetings in Cache and Morgan counties and areas of central and southern Utah, those complaining far outnumbered those expressing satisfaction with their telephone service.

Common complaints in rural areas center mostly on out-dated switching systems that fail to hold a dial tone, cut off calls unexpectedly, give false busy signals or generate an intercept saying a number is out of service when it isn't.

US WEST Communications is under PSC mandate to spend $91 million to upgrade rural switching offices over the next four years. The company has appealed the order to the Utah Supreme Court.

In recent weeks, US WEST has opted to sell its Huntington switching office and turn that area over to Emery County Farmers Union Telephone Cooperative, a small independent company. US WEST has also indicated it may be willing to sell several other small exchanges.

At Tuesday's hearing, US WEST restated plans to upgrade the Roosevelt switching office by Sept. 27. Roosevelt has been an area of controversy since last fall when officials from Duchesne County Hospital raised the issue with the Roosevelt City Council.

Roosevelt was not scheduled for an upgrade until next year, but US WEST agreed to make the upgrade this year after meeting with city officials.

Many of the Roosevelt residents speaking at Tuesday's hearings expressed a desire to switch to a small independent company located just outside the city limits rather than wait for the promised upgrade from US WEST. Roosevelt is not one of the areas US WEST has indicated a willingness to sell.