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CenturyLink's Deregulation Bid Could Hurt Wyoming Seniors

AARP Wyoming is negotiating with CenturyLink to make sure older residents continue to have access to a working landline. (Pixabay)
AARP Wyoming is negotiating with CenturyLink to make sure older residents continue to have access to a working landline. (Pixabay)
October 23, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – As CenturyLink prepares to face hearings this week over complaints by three Wyoming communities of poor service quality, the nation's largest advocacy organization for older Americans is crying foul over the telecom company's efforts to shrug off oversight by the Wyoming Public Service Commission.

Louisiana-based CenturyLink has petitioned the commission to deregulate all landlines.

But Sam Shumway, state director of AARP Wyoming, says it's important that the PSC have some say over how the largest provider in the state treats customers.

"Their oversight ensures that the monopoly, essentially, that Centurylink has in Wyoming – there's some check on that, so that they're not able to drive up costs, or not able to provide the quality of service that their customers would expect," he states.

CenturyLink is currently under investigation for service quality in the Lusk and Wheatland exchanges and rural parts of Crook County.

According to Stephen Mosher with CenturyLink, competition in the telecommunications industry has led to more choices for consumers, and he argues regulations should be relaxed with increased competition.

Shumway says access to a working landline can make the difference between life and death, especially for older residents.

He adds that if CenturyLink does not keep up its landline services, seniors could be forced to transition to using cellular or Internet-based services that can be twice as expensive.

"And it begs the question of whether that is real competition,” he stresses. “If that's the alternative, particularly for our members, that's not a realistic alternative for many older residents of Wyoming."

AARP Wyoming is currently in negotiations with CenturyLink to maintain quality service, and to ensure that all customers in the state have in-home broadband access.

If an agreement is not reached, the case could go before the Public Service Commission. A hearing is scheduled to take place in March of next year.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY