Cox causes phone outages
Complaint says rewiring disconnected customers
By Ken Alltucker
The Arizona Republic
Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006
Qwest Communications claims its chief rival, Cox, has
improperly accessed the Denver-based telephone company's
equipment at apartments, townhouses and condominiums across
Arizona, resulting in thousands of hours of service outages
for Qwest customers.
Qwest filed a complaint Monday with the Arizona Corporation
Commission blaming Cox for tapping its wiring equipment
without permission at several multifamily complexes in
The telephone company claims that Cox improperly accessed
its equipment at least 100 times, in some cases using
hacksaws and splitters to sever wires. Qwest contends that
these actions contributed to 100,000 hours of outages for
At issue is a state-approved "interconnection" agreement
that Cox and Qwest signed in 1997 and modified in 2002. The
pact requires Cox to notify Qwest when accessing its
wiring. This is typically done when a Qwest telephone
customer switches to Cox.
In some cases, Cox is required to pay a fee to use Qwest's
lines and wires.
"They have not placed a single order for these
interconnection agreements," Qwest spokesman Jeff Mirasola
said. "It's a direct violation of the commission's rules."
Ivan Johnson, Cox's vice president of communications and
Televideo, described Qwest's complaint as "premature."
Johnson said Qwest informed Cox of only eight complexes at
which improper connections took place. Cox plans to
investigate evidence of tampering and respond appropriately,
"Qwest has attempted to raise its stature by unfairly
vilifying its most successful competitor," Johnson said.
"If there was an interest in resolving the issue, there
would not have been a filing of a complaint."
Qwest claims that Cox used various methods to improperly
access wiring, including a hacksaw and splitter to tie Cox's
lines to Qwest's equipment. Cox technicians punched holes
in connector boxes, damaged equipment and, in one case,
removed a grounding clamp used to protect against electrical
grid surges, the complaint alleges.
"In several instances, Cox disconnected service to Qwest
customers through the improper rewiring it performed during
these unlawful entries," Qwest's complaint states.
Qwest wants state regulators to issue a preliminary
injunction to stop Cox from accessing its wiring. The
company also seeks an independent audit of such connections
to gauge how widespread the practice is.
Qwest and Cox are locked in an intense competition for new
customers in the fast-growing Valley.
Qwest, the traditional phone company, has seen its market
share erode as Cox, cellular providers and Internet-based
companies chip away at its core telephone business. The
company's access lines have dropped from 3.3 million in 2000
to 2.5 million as of early 2005.
Both companies have attempted to convert new customers by
packaging multiple services at discounted rates. These
packages usually consist of phone, high-speed Internet and
pay television. The idea is that the more services a
customer has with a company, the less likely the customer is
to switch to a competitor.
The Qwest complaint isn't the first spat over network
connections between a traditional telephone company and a
In 2003, SBC Communications filed a similar complaint
against Cox in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Corporation
Commission ruled that Cox should be required to place an
order to access SBC's wiring. Also, the state decided that
Cox must pay SBC one-time charges for service switchovers
and monthly charges of more than $2 for each customer that
uses SBC's wiring. Cox has appealed the decision.
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