U S West and Oregon regulators have struck a deal that will
permit the regional Bell operating company to unveil ADSL Internet-access technology
beginning Aug. 19.
Under the plan, the Oregon Public Utility Commission can
delay the launch of asymmetrical-digital-subscriber-line service if U S West fails to show
that Internet-service providers are being outfitted with the high-speed phone lines that
are needed to compete for customers.
ADSL technology allows consumers to surf the Internet and
talk on the same phone line simultaneously, making it an acknowledged danger to modem
service marketed by cable operators.
However, Oregon ISPs complained that the RBOC has been slow
to install the high-speed T-1 and T-3 phone lines that they need to accommodate the new
As a result, the PUC suspended U S West's request to
roll out the technology in April, arguing that the RBOC would have been in a position to
steer consumers to its own ISP business, U S West.net.
"We don't want their competitors to be at a
disadvantage because they can't get adequate service," said PUC chairman Ron
Eachus, in a prepared statement.
The settlement calls for U S West to immediately begin
taking orders from ISPs for high-speed lines. It then has until Aug. 19 a make a
"reasonable effort" to comply with any order placed before July 15. It must
report to the PUC on its progress by Aug. 12.
U S West spokesman Jim Haines said the company has no set
percentage of orders that it must fill before reporting back to the PUC.
"We're going to document our efforts,"
Haines said. "But the key is that it's then up to the commission to say whether
Nevertheless, PUC spokesman Ron Karten said the commission
plans to hold U S West's feet to the fire on fulfilling orders.
Karten added that the telco has also agreed to route
consumers who are interested in an alternative ISP other than U S West.net to a "safe
harbor," where a company operator would be required to inform the customer about
other services that are available.
It must also provide its modems to competitors at the same
price that it offers them to consumers, and it must provide the opportunity for ISPs to
purchase the modems directly from the manufacturer.