Ameritech blamed for lengthy outages : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Ameritech blamed for lengthy outages

Friday, July 14, 2000



Ingrid Deininger's home phone line has gone dead four times this year, most recently losing service for several days in late June and early July. Each outage usually lasts a week or more, and Deininger - a registered nurse and administrator at Individualized Home Nursing Care in Ann Arbor - must be on call at all times.

"They always blame the squirrels - that they always eat through the wires," Deininger groused. "It never was this bad. Never, never."

Phone nightmares like these are hardly isolated. This has been a record-setting year for phone service complaints, according to state regulators. Customer gripes over repair or maintenance have doubled, and in many cases more than tripled, during the spring and summer months this year compared with last.

Ameritech blames the season's deluge of washout rains for causing line damage and creating a backlog of repairs. The company says Washtenaw and Livingston County customers who need line repair service can now expect to wait at least two weeks before a technician visits their home.

The situation has prompted the Michigan Public Service Commission to consider sanctions against Ameritech and other phone companies that rack up customer complaints. With the recent rewrite of the Michigan Telecommunications Act, which Gov. John Engler has promised to sign as early as next week, the MPSC will have greater authority to regulate phone companies.

"We've been quite concerned about the number of complaints over telecommunications," said Gary Kitts, MPSC chief administrative officer.

During the first six months of this year, the MPSC fielded 576 repair service complaints by customers for all Michigan telephone companies, including Ameritech. That's nearly a 240 percent increase over the same six-month period in 1999, when the agency logged 170 complaints.

Michael-David BenDor thought it was curious when his telephone line fell silent late last month, particularly because the phone died in the middle of a bright, sunny afternoon. What was far more startling to the Superior Township resident, though, was how long Ameritech said it would take to fix the dead line: Three weeks.

"It used to be when a telephone went out it was an urgent situation and it had to be repaired the same day," BenDor said. "Now they're telling you three weeks."

Right now, no restrictions are placed on how long Ameritech or any phone company can delay before fixing a dead line.

"The rules are badly outdated," Kitts said. "That's clearly not acceptable."

Service violations by the Baby Bells are a nationwide problem, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal last week. The nation's four regional phone companies face potential penalties of nearly $300 million from various state regulatory agencies, the newspaper reported.

In Michigan, the weather has overwhelmed the company's repair staff, Ameritech spokeswoman Jody Juckem said. So far this year, 23.24 inches of rain has fallen in Ann Arbor. The average is 16.45 inches of rain for this time of year.

"We've had 145 percent more this year (in Michigan) than last year at this time," Juckem said

-- Martin Thompson (, July 14, 2000

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