Officials from Five Midwest States Demand Ameritech Action on Service Woes : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Officials from Five Midwest States Demand Ameritech Action on Service Woes

By Jessica Zigmond

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Regulators from five Midwest states on Friday told local telephone service provider Ameritech, a unit of SBC Communications Inc.(NYSE:SBC - news), to improve its services and called action so far insufficient.

Customer complaints have focused on repair service delays, inability to reach the company and problems with company representatives, the Chicago-based consumer group Citizens Utility Board has said.

In a joint statement, the state commissioners called Ameritech's most recent plan to address quality issues, which includes hiring more technicians and bringing in temporary workers ``wholly insufficient.''

Regulators said Ameritech's plan falls short of meeting minimum service quality standards and does nothing to compensate customers inconvenienced before the plan was announced.

But the company believes it was too early to determine if its plan was working, according to Ameritech spokesman Michael King.

``We are working to earn back the respect of our customers,'' King said.''

At Friday's meeting, regulators also called for a public forum to be held within a month so Ameritech can respond to complaints.

``Today we are calling for a joint forum of representatives of our five-state public utility commissions at which SBC Ameritech will be asked to publicly address these service quality issues,'' said Ave Bie, chairwoman of Wisconsin's Public Service Commission, who was joined by commissioners from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

Service complaints have increased since the company was acquired by San-Antonio based SBC Communications last year, said Alan Schriber, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

In Illinois, service has deteriorated so much the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) earlier this week said a state audit of the company's management practices might be necessary.

King told Reuters he expects Ameritech to give a progress report of the plan to the commissioners at the joint forum.

Until that time, the company will continue to focus on the situation that King said Jim Shelley, Ameritech's president of external affairs, called ``unacceptable.''

SBC shares closed up 3/16 at $50 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange (news - web sites).

-- Carl Jenkins (, September 30, 2000

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