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Qwest to warn SkyWi about future disconnects
The Associated Press
Denver Post
Saturday, January 10, 2009

SANTA FE, NM New Mexico regulators have approved an agreement with Qwest Communications International Inc., which will provide notice before disconnecting SkyWi Inc. from its system.  The Public Regulation Commission had asked telecom company Qwest and SkyWi, an independently owned Internet service provider, to notify customers of disconnections 10 days in advance.

Qwest agreed to the request.  SkyWi refused to acknowledge the PRC's jurisdiction and declined to sign the agreement, citing a lawsuit it has pending against Qwest in federal court.

SkyWi sued in December, alleging anticompetitive behavior.  The lawsuit accuses Qwest of willfully and routinely engaging in practices designed to remove effective competition.

Qwest on Dec. 29 disconnected about 10,000 SkyWi customers over a $1.7 million debt it said SkyWi owed.  SkyWi whose customers include local governments, hospitals and banks does business under its own name and through subsidiaries ZiaNet and OnConnect IP.

SkyWi President Jack Leach has said some customers switched to different providers after losing their connections, and that his company lost customers' trust.

The PRC on Dec. 31 ordered Qwest to restore service immediately.

Qwest told the commission Thursday that at least 98 percent of SkyWi customers now have service restored.

As for SkyWi, the PRC has no jurisdiction over the company.  However, even if SkyWi does not notify customers of disconnection, a PRC spokesman said Qwest and the commission can notify the public.

A federal judge has set a Tuesday hearing over whether Qwest should continue the service while SkyWi's lawsuit against Qwest is pending.

PRC Commissioner David King said a number of state legislators from southern New Mexico indicated to him that the commission should maintain oversight of the quality of service of all telecommunication companies in New Mexico.

"I know they have a great deal of concern regarding this particular incident," King said in a statement.  "They have indicated to me that if there are any loopholes in the state law (regarding telecommunications), they intend to bring legislation in the upcoming session to correct it."