State regulators uphold $226,000 penalty against CenturyLink
Company failed to notify the UTC before raising customer rates
LACEY, Wash. - Last week, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission upheld a $226,000 penalty against CenturyLink after five of its telephone companies violated an agreement with the Commission by raising customer rates without notifying the UTC. This is the second year in a row that the company has violated the agreement.
CenturyLink is bound by an alternative form of regulation plan established in 2014, which requires its companies to notify the commission of any changes to its rates at the same time it notifies customers. Five CenturyLink companies failed to do so in 2021 and 2022, making them subject to a $100 penalty per violation, per day.
On June 1, the commission issued a penalty assessment against CenturyLink citing 2,266 violations representing the total days between when each of the five companies should have notified the UTC and when they actually filed rate changes in response to a staff request, leading to the $226,000 penalty.
In response to the penalty assessment CenturyLink admitted to the violations and filed an application for mitigation on June 8. The commission rejected the company’s arguments for mitigation on Sept. 30.
On Oct. 10, CenturyLink filed a petition for review citing, in part, overwhelming personnel reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the departure of key staff, as the reason for the missed notifications.
The lack of notification hinders the UTC’s ability to regulate in the public interest and intervene when necessary. Proper notification would have allowed the commission to evaluate the economic circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of those rate increases on customers.
The five CenturyLink companies are:
- Qwest Corporation
- CenturyTel of Washington, Inc.
- CenturyTel of Inter Island, Inc.
- CenturyTel of Cowiche, Inc.
- United Telephone Company of the Northwest
CenturyLink, part of Lumen Technologies, is the largest local telephone company in Washington, serving approximately 650,000 residential and business lines.
The UTC regulates the rates and services of telecommunications companies, investor-owned electric utilities, natural gas and water companies, garbage-collection haulers, household-goods movers and passenger transportation companies, commercial ferries, pipeline companies, marine pilotage, and a low-level radioactive waste repository. The commission does not regulate the rates of broadband services, cellular, cable, or Internet service.