Oregon Telephone Corporation is the local telephone company for Mt. Vernon, Prairie City, Dayville, Bridgeport, Bates, Hereford, Unity, Ironside, Cow Valley, Harper, Westfall, and Juntura. Locally operated, Oregon Telephone Corporation is an independent company that has been providing service since 1914. The main office is located in Mt. Vernon at One Telephone Drive.
Presently, OTC provides local and long distance telephone, high-speed internet, and paging to rural customers across the states of Oregon & Washington.
Rural phones may get a boost
. Oregon PUC is cracking down on inadequate long-distance service
By staff report
/ The Bulletin
The Oregon Public Utility Commission announced new rules Wednesday aimed at holding long-distance providers accountable for lackluster telephone service in rural areas of the state.
That represented an unusual step in itself, according to a PUC spokesman.
But if history is a guide, it may amount to little in terms of relief for thousands of rural Oregonians whose long-distance service is on the bitter end of a long line.
"Admittedly, we have rarely used this finding authority, but we've had (it) for a long time," said PUC spokesman Bob Valdez on Friday. "We've imposed financial penalties in the past, but not a fine."
The problem, addressed in February at the federal level by a declarative ruling from the Federal Communications Commission, lies in a practice known as least-cost routing. Basically, large long-distance telecommunications companies like MCI, AT&T or Sprint, forced to pay fees to pay the cost of maintaining rural phone service, reduce their own costs by routing long-distance calls through secondary carriers.
Those secondary carriers sometimes use emerging technology like voice-over-Internet protocol, or VOIP - sometimes with disappointing results. Dropped calls, calls of poor quality or incorrect caller ID are typical complaints.
The PUC reported more than 1,600 complaints from Oregon consumers of poor quality long-distance service since June 2011.
The phone company at the receiving end suffers as a result, but the carrier where the call originates is responsible for seeing the call to its destination. In Central Oregon, two rural phone companies operate at the receiving end of long-distance.
The Oregon Telephone Corp., of Mount Vernon, counts 1,758 access lines: Pine Telephone System Inc., with an office in Culver, counts about 1,000 subscribers in Baker and northern Deschutes counties.
Oregon Telephone Corp. general manager Dee Dee Kluser said the FCC ruling made little difference in improving phone service. She hadn't heard of the Oregon ruling, but hoped it would do some good.
"The problem still exists in a very bad way," she said. "It seems it'll be good for a week or two, and then all we'll deal with is that issue."
A Pine Telephone representative did not return calls seeking comment Thursday and Friday.
In Oregon, phone companies face fines up to $50,000 for each violation or a loss of license. Valdez said 363 providers are licensed by the Oregon PUC.
The commission would have to file suit against the providers in circuit court.
The new rules alone could be tied up in appeals, but normally take effect 60 days after they're announced. Valdez said the state expects resistance from long-distance carriers. "I'm hearing secondhand that they're not really happy with the route we've taken," he said.
A call seeking comment from CenturyLink, which routes long-distance calls locally, was not returned Friday.
>From bendbulletin.com - published daily in Bend, Oregon, by Western
Communications, Inc. Copyright 2005.
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