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AT&T files complaints in 5 states on US West

The Associated Press

DENVER-- AT&T Corp. filed complaints against US West Inc. with regulators in five states Wednesday, alleging the Baby Bell is ignoring telephone customers to steal a bigger share of the high-stakes multimedia market.

AT&T has built a nationwide communications network by acquiring or partnering with four of the country's biggest cable TV companies, including the MediaOne Group Inc. Several consumer groups have urged federal regulators to require AT&T to open its cable lines to other companies to offer Internet service or reject the deal.

Meanwhile, US West is merging with Denver neighbor Qwest Communications International Inc. The new company would be a major rival to AT&T in providing telephone, Internet and cable services.

AT&T and US West spent Wednesday lobbing barbs at one another after AT&T filed complaints in Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington.

US West provides its customers with the poorest service ... and it's rapidly getting worse, said Frank Ianna, AT&T's network services president.

AT&T also accused US West of failing to adequately invest in its facilities; refusing to build needed facilities; and favoring itself and its affiliates when it does invest in the network. US West has made it impossible for AT&T to provide timely, quality services to many customers, Ianna said.

Kevin Smith, US West vice president for Colorado, denied the charges. He said US West completes requested work for AT&T on time 80 to 94 percent of the time.

The complaints were simply a case of AT&T simply running scared, he added. AT&T is well aware of the fact that Qwest's data and long distance network around the world is bigger than theirs and more modern.

That's the main reason why these complaints were filed, said Rex G. Mitchell, an analyst with Bank America Securities.

It has very little to do with service levels in US West territory and a whole lot to do with competition in the local market and the long distance market.

He said AT&T is hoping its complaints about US West service will convince regulators to approve its merger with MediaOne.

The complaint may have merit but their motivation is winning approval of MediaOne and blocking US West-Qwest from becoming a competitor for long distance.

US West is the primary provider of local telephone service in a 14-state area of the Midwest and West. Regulators in several states served by US West have been critical of the firm in recent years,but US West officials said they are working to improve service, but were hampered last year by a labor strike and weather problems.