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N.M., Qwest settle; upgrades ordered
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Friday, December 29, 2006


New Mexico regulators on Thursday unanimously approved a proposed settlement requiring Qwest Communications to invest in network upgrades and high-speed Internet services, ending litigation stemming from an investment shortfall.  The Denver telco said the agreement would provide more than $250 million in investments and other benefits in New Mexico.

The settlement specifically requires Qwest to bring high-speed Internet capabilities to 83 percent of the homes and businesses in its service area over three years, including at least 50 percent in rural areas.

Qwest also must issue $10 million in one-time credits to New Mexico customers, an increase from a proposed $7.2 million.

New Mexico Public Regulation Commission officials said in the 19-page order that the settlement would provide "significant benefits" to Qwest customers in the state and to the general public.

In 2001, Qwest agreed to invest $788 million over five years in New Mexico in exchange for an alternative form of regulation.  But state regulators concluded Qwest fell $220 million short and initially argued that a credit or customer refund was required.

The proposed settlement came only after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's administration intervened in what had become a contentious case.

"This historic agreement would not have been possible without the effort of many key people," Steve Davis, Qwest senior vice president of public policy, said in a statement.

Still, not everyone was happy.

The AARP in New Mexico had urged regulators to reject the proposed settlement, saying it didn't believe Qwest would honor it.

"Obviously, it's not the way we hoped it would have gone," said Stan Cooper, New Mexico state director of the AARP.  "But we're hopeful from the comments made by some of the PRC members that there will be some stringent enforcement."

Qwest Communications

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http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/tech/article/0,2777,DRMN_23910_5243212,00.html