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Internet service provider will be cut off

Central Point-based Hunter Communications has notified a Portland-based internet service provider it will cut off access to its fiber optic network throughout Southern Oregon on April 2.

LS Networks claims its customers, including municipalities, schools and hospitals in Medford, Klamath Falls, Grants Pass and Lake County, will be in danger of losing data and voice services, disrupting emergency services calls and cell service.

Hunter Communications, however, said there would be no loss of customer services, emergency services or cell operations as LS Networks customers could choose from several other internet service providers available locally.

Hunter Communications President Richard Ryan, in a response distributed Tuesday afternoon, said the company reached “a difficult decision” on March 2 to sever its association with LS Networks, ending a month-to-month service contract with the company.

“There are numerous serious reasons why Hunter had to take the steps of terminating certain services to LS Networks,” Ryan wrote. “But Hunter does not believe it is appropriate to air those issues before third parties.”

Ryan noted Hunter Communications typically works with customers to renew contracts when they fail to meet terms of the agreement, but encountered “unique challenges with LS Networks that deserved a higher level of consideration.”

LS Networks, owned by five Oregon electric co-ops and the Coquille Tribe, said Hunter Communications was in violation of Oregon Public Utility Commission regulations requiring a 90-day termination notice. Douglas Electric Cooperative, which serves a large rural area in Douglas County, is among the co-ops affected.

Ryan said Tuesday his company is in compliance with PUC regulations.

"Providing 30-days' notice is what LS Networks and Hunter agreed to and is lawful under PUC rules," Ryan wrote.

Ryan said LS Network’s claim that essential services would be disrupted is false.

“There are multiple service options for each location where a LS Network contract is being terminated,” Ryan wrote.

Among the options are Century Link, Charter Communications and Hunter Communications itself, along with other internet service providers.

“There is an abundance of service options for the end users,” Ryan wrote. “LS Networks could also choose other providers to offer last mile services in place of Hunter if they are unwilling to allow the end user to contract directly.”

Asked in a telephone interview whether his company has ever fallen behind on payment, President and CEO Michael Weidman said LS Networks has paid its bills.

“Our payment history has been consistent with industry standard, within 30 days,” he said.

“This letter came as a surprise, as LS Networks has worked with Hunter Communications to serve Southern Oregon for over 10 years,” Weidman said in a statement Tuesday. “LS Networks has received no clarification regarding why Hunter Communications has taken this course of action. Disconnecting existing services without cause is unprecedented in the telecommunications industry. Hunter Communications has been informed by LS Networks of the impact these disconnections will have on local services, communities and businesses.”

LS Networks’ service area reaches from southwest Washington to Northern California, with the majority of its customer base in Oregon along the Interstate 5 corridor and the coast. The company, founded in 2005, has 71 employees.

Weidman said his firm has made an effort to continue the relationship with Hunter Communications.

“We have asked for renewal rates and terms,” Weidman said. “They’ve raised our rates and we’ve paid them. They haven’t offered a solution that we’ve turned down.”

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or by email at gstiles@rosebudmedia.com.