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EXPLOSIVE GROWTH PUTS PHONE SERVICE ON HOLD

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When Todd Millett moves into his new home in Lindon this week, he's been told the soonest he'll have a phone line is the end of September.

That concerns Millett because his wife, Jennifer, is a severe asthmatic."Many times we have to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. When she gets asthma, she can't even walk across the street," Millett said. "It's important that we have a phone."

Millett's problem is becoming commonplace in Utah County. US WEST is having a difficult time keeping up with the explosive growth here.

"As you know, growth in Utah County far exceeds projections," said Carl McKay, manager over engineer construction management for US WEST. "That makes things difficult."

US WEST employees didn't anticipate the growth.

"First, the local economy is outpacing the nation's economy, and second, interest rates fell and construction grew, creating a boom in construction that we couldn't have forecast," said Steve Linton, manager of public policy for US WEST.

Linton said employees are working overtime to compensate. Work crews install between 50 and 60 new lines every day in Utah County.

"Our crews are working 70 hours a week, and we've brought in crews from out of state. We've also done some outside contracting, but we're still running behind," Linton said.

Miscalculated growth caused even greater delays because the telephone company doesn't have enough trunk lines to service customers. Each trunk line services about 600 customers.

Linton said phone lines are delayed about three months once construction on a subdivision has begun.

Millett says it takes even longer. "I've heard about people waiting four months for phone lines after their home is built. By the time we get a phone line, engineering work will have been completed for six months. US WEST has known for well over a year about the subdivision we're moving into," he said.

Linton said it is sometimes difficult to get materials - like phone-line cables - because of the demand for them after natural disasters like Hurricane Andrew.