U S West Faces Suit from ISDN Customer


As telecommunications providers accelerate their high-speed
Internet-service rollouts, at least one telco is feeling growing pains from its burgeoning

A U S West customer has sued the Baby Bell in Denver
District Court, claiming that it billed him for months for an
integrated-services-digital-network connection it never installed, and that the ISDN line
did not perform at the advertised level once it was up and running.

Customer Mike Lair -- whom the complaint described as a
resident of Montana and Washington state -- alleged that U S West was promoting and
selling a service that it did not have the infrastructure to actually provide at the time.

Lair is seeking class-action status for the suit,
contending separately that some 225,000 U S West customers might be affected in its
14-state local service region.

U S West said it had not been served with the suit as of
late last week, and it could not comment on the allegations.

Some of the complaints in the case mirrored gripes
customers have made against a variety of high-speed Internet-access platforms, including
cable-modem services, which have not always performed as well as advertised.

AT&T Corp., for example, recently began offering
refunds and halting new subscriptions for its San Francisco Excite@Home cable-modem system
due to complaints about repeated technical problems ranging from slow speeds to
unexplained outages.

In Lair's complaint, he claimed that in response to
promotional advertising, he signed up last August for U S West's "One Pak
Classic" ISDN service, which offered Internet access at speeds of up to 128 kilobits
per second, a 3Com Corp. ISDN modem and use of a special, toll-free "Smooth
Start" customer-help line.

U S West allegedly began billing Lair about $200 per month
for the service late last year, even though he did not get an actual ISDN connection until
this past March, the suit claimed, with one installer leaving him a note in November 1998
reading, "ISDN is not ready!"

Lair alleged that his data speeds usually only reached 56
kbps -- equivalent to top dial-up speeds -- during the evening and 70 kbps to 80 kbps
during the daytime.

He also said the Smooth Start line had been disconnected
due to an overwhelming number of phone calls, and he was told by a U S West supervisor
that the company was months behind in provisioning ISDN orders due to a lack of necessary

U S West spokesman Jon Lentz noted that only about 500
customers had subscribed to One Pak Classic, prompting the company to discontinue the
package in favor of a new version, "One Pak," which provides unlimited Internet
access at 128 kbps via its own Internet-service provider for $29.95 per month plus ISDN

Lentz also noted that One Pak Classic was only offered from
August 1997 through June 1998.