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Regulators deny CenturyLink’s bid to change landline rules

July 22, 2021 GMT

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) —

Minnesota regulators on Thursday unanimously rejected CenturyLink’s request to ease rules on landline service repairs, saying those customers should not suffer because most people have switched to broadband.

CenturyLink, Minnesota’s largest landline phone provider, had petitioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to scrap two long-standing regulations covering customer service response times, calling them archaic rules. The company says it has lost 85% of its wired phone business in Minnesota since 2001, and that only 4.4% of all state households rely solely on a landline for voice phone service.

“1983 was when these rules were passed, and many made sense at that time,” Jason Topp, CenturyLink’s assistant general counsel, told the PUC. “But there have been dramatic changes since.”

PUC commissioners questioned the premise that implementing broadband was at odds with CenturyLink’s service obligations to landline customers, the Star Tribune reported.

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“The record has been mostly about the current rules getting in the way of broadband,” PUC Commissioner Joe Sullivan said. “I am not comfortable with that.”

Commissioner Valerie Means said that landline service is still important, particularly to elderly, rural and lower-income customers.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and Department of Commerce both recommended against the change and in a different report said the phone company was violating the regulations. The company has denied the allegations.