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Lawmakers want explanation to SoCal outages

February 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Local lawmakers want to know why Southern California had so many telephone service outages during recent rains.

The strong storms that moved through Southern California in December made it one of the wettest months in history. It also brought big problems to telephone companies that affected 100,000 customers.

"Our customers lost business at this very important time of the year during the holiday period," said Dick Jalkut from TelePacific Communications. "In short, we were at the mercy of AT&T and Verizon's network support. They did not. "

Friday, a State Senate Committee wanted to know why it took so long to fix these problems. Some of those affected are still waiting for their service to be restored.

"Rule number one," said Pacoima State Senator Alex Padilla. "No matter who you are, no matter what your income level is, you should be able to dial 911 in the case of an emergency. It is a requirement for all phone companies in California to make sure that they maintain their networks, even when there are outages, that service is restored as quickly as possible."

Representatives from AT&T and Verizon said their trouble reports quadrupled almost overnight. They had to bring in thousands of workers from all over the country to try and fix the problems.

"During this storm event the number of trouble reports increased substantially," said Verizon representative Rebecca McCurdy. "At the height of the storm we had almost 12 times higher than average."

"As soon as the storm hit we started to have out-of-service issues," said AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman. "But it continued. And our ability to respond to those issues was delayed by the weather that kept pounding the Southland."

But some telephone union workers say that the companies are spending more money on high definition TV services and wireless because they are more profitable.

"They're not investing in the basic infrastructure that provides basic landline service to people," said Kenny Williams from Communications Workers of America. "But what I have seen is just downsizing, downsizing, downsizing. Do more with less."

Most agree that the telecommunications business is changing so quickly that it's hard to keep up, and it's difficult to regulate. But they say it needs to be done right away so it doesn't happen again during the next rain storm.