Commission wants explanation of Orofino area phone outages
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has directed Verizon Northwest, Inc. to file a report by Sept. 10, explaining lengthy phone outages in the Orofino area.
Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics in Orofino filed a formal complaint against Verizon, alleging phone service was “either intermittent or non-existent” from June 12-14, 2007. The hospital claims it was unable to perform critical functions during that time, including calling air ambulance for a critically ill patient, sending radiology images and providing electronic medical record information to physicians. The hospital said it had to rely on a backup radio system that routes calls through Boise and then to Lewiston.
The outage may also have affected customers in the Peck, Pierce and Weippe exchanges.
In 2005, the Idaho Legislature removed much of the commission’s regulatory authority over wireline telephone companies such as Verizon and Qwest, maintaining that because of increased competition, price regulation is no longer required. However, the commission did retain limited regulatory authority over such matters as service quality standards, customer relation rules and billing practices and procedures.
The commission said the report must explain the cause of the outages, extent of the disruption, proposed solutions and the company’s long-term plans for addressing the capacity of the microwave system serving the Orofino area. Verizon’s microwave system that serves the Orofino area is reportedly at capacity.
Verizon serves more than 118,000 wireline customers in northern Idaho.
Copies of the complete notice of investigation order and other documents related to this case are available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room,” and then on “Telecommunications Cases,” and scroll down to Case No. VZN-T-07-03.