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Qwest pulls plug on NM Internet provider
The Associated Press
Denver Post
Wednesday, Decemer 31- 2008

LAS CRUCES, N.M.—Qwest has disconnected independently owned and operated Internet service provider SkyWi Inc., contending SkyWi owes $1.7 million for services dating back to September. Albuquerque-based SkyWi buys wholesale Internet services through Qwest before reselling them to its customers. Qwest had asked SkyWi to pay more than $580,000 by Monday to continue the service, said Qwest spokesman Mark Molzen.

Tuesday's disconnection was no surprise to SkyWi, Molzen said.

"We notified SkyWi several months in advance and numerous times," he said.

SkyWi's chief development officer, Don Levy, said it owes money to Qwest, but not $1.7 million. He would not disclose how much SkyWi believes it owes.

He also would not say whether SkyWi customers were notified service was being disconnected.

The decision to disconnect SkyWi affected Eddy County government, which found itself without phone service and scrambled to get hooked back up. The system was provided by One Connect.

Eddy County Manager Steve Massey in Carlsbad said he had not known in advance that Qwest was disconnecting SkyWi. The Eddy County sheriff's 911 emergency line was not affected.

SkyWi sued Qwest in December, alleging anti-competitive behavior.

"We have no issue with Qwest competing with us for the same customers, as that is the nature of healthy competition," Jack Leach, president of SkyWi, said in a news release. "But Qwest has opted to take unfair advantage of their control over the telecom networks in this region to create barriers that destroy the competitiveness of smaller ISPs."

SkyWi acquired One Connect IP and ZiaNet in September, and Levy said SkyWi realized there were problems between the two companies and Qwest.

The lawsuit accuses Qwest of willfully and routinely engaging in practices designed to remove effective competition from its markets, Levy said.

Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks said no complaint has been filed with the commission. The PRC has less authority over Internet service, but Marks said he's asked his staff "to determine whether (the commission) could have any role."

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_11343337