PRC orders Qwest to restore Internet service
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 1, 2009
LAS CRUCES, NM
— New Mexico
regulators have ordered Qwest to restore service to customers of
independently owned and operated Internet service provider SkyWi
Inc. after it disconnected the provider because of a $1.7
million debt. The state Public Regulation Commission held
an emergency meeting Wednesday and ordered Qwest to immediately
begin the process of restoring service to critical SkyWi
customers and to report back to the PRC by Friday morning.
Qwest spokesman Mark Molzen said Qwest is cooperating with the
PRC and has deployed "all available resources to restore service
in the interest of customer service and public safety."
The PRC wants SkyWi to give Qwest a list of its customers
prioritized by public health and safety and also by economic
The commission also ordered SkyWi to release control of
customers' telephone numbers to enable those customers to seek
Albuquerque-based SkyWi buys wholesale Internet services through
Qwest before reselling them to its customers. Qwest had
asked SkyWi to pay more than $580,000 by Monday to continue the
service, Molzen said.
Tuesday's disconnection was no surprise to SkyWi, Molzen said.
"We notified SkyWi several months in advance and numerous
times," he said.
SkyWi's chief development officer, Don Levy, said it owes money
to Qwest, but not $1.7 million. He would not disclose how
much SkyWi believes it owes.
He also would not say whether SkyWi customers were notified
service was being disconnected.
The decision to disconnect SkyWi affected Eddy County
government, which found itself without phone service and
scrambled to get hooked back up. The system was provided
by One Connect.
Eddy County Manager Steve Massey in
said he had not known in advance that Qwest was disconnecting
SkyWi. The Eddy
sheriff's 911 emergency line was not affected.
SkyWi sued Qwest in December, alleging anti-competitive
"We have no issue with Qwest competing with us for the same
customers, as that is the nature of healthy competition," Jack
Leach, president of SkyWi, said in a news release. "But
Qwest has opted to take unfair advantage of their control over
the telecom networks in this region to create barriers that
destroy the competitiveness of smaller ISPs."
SkyWi acquired One Connect IP and ZiaNet in September, and Levy
said SkyWi realized there were problems between the two
companies and Qwest.
The lawsuit accuses Qwest of willfully and routinely engaging in
practices designed to remove effective competition from its
markets, Levy said.
The PRC said it's decision to require Qwest to restore service
to critical customers is an interim order pending a decision by
the federal court on SkyWi's request for a preliminary
injunction in its lawsuit against Qwest.