AG’s Report: Small Internet Service Providers Being BulliedFriday, May 16, 2008
Asking PRC to Rein In Big Telephone Companies
(SANTA FE)---Attorney General Gary King’s office today filed a report and a motion before the Public Regulation Commission, asking the commission to open an investigation into unfair billing and business practices by Qwest and Windstream phone companies.
In response to a request for the report from the PRC, telecom specialist, Assistant Attorney General Brian Harris, presented a report to commissioners detailing how small New Mexico companies that provide essential Internet services to small towns and cities are being forced out of business or are struggling to stay alive by monopolistic practices of the two largest incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) in the state.
Some of the more egregious examples include: A monthly bill that exceeds 5000 pages, billing errors that consistently favor the ILEC, arbitrarily imposed termination liability fees, an enduring “run-around” when the small business tries to solve the problem with the ILEC, improper threats to shut down service, and improper “slamming” of broadband customers. Many of these businesses, at great expense, have had to devote at least one full time employee simply to trying to decipher the bills. Some companies have ceased operation, at great dislocation to their customers; others have had their customers experience enormous frustration when they are caught between a phone company and their local ISP.
“There exists a market asymmetry right now where small Internet service providers depend on big companies that control what the small companies can offer to their customers,” says Harris. “We are asking the PRC to eliminate this advantage, promote competition and protect consumers by stepping in.”
The Attorney General’s Office is also urging the commission to conduct hearings statewide to obtain more first-hand accounts of billing problems and associated business practices by the ILECs.