To prevent any slide, the staff is proposing a stringent set of quality standards that would replace the looser requirements now on the books. The standards would track such measures as prompt installations, appointments kept, trouble reports, outages of a day or more, the time it takes to get in touch with a service representative and complaints to the PSC. To enforce these standards, the PSC staff is also proposing expanded reporting requirements that would pinpoint pockets of substandard service.
The staff proposes to use those measurements and customer satisfaction surveys to construct a "service quality index." If the company fails to meet minimums set by the commission, it could have its price cap adjusted downward, potentially costing the company millions of dollars in revenue.
Bell Atlantic, which contends the decades-old guidelines in place today are adequate, finds almost everything in the staff proposal objectionable. It contends the standards are improper because they would not apply to other carriers and unfair because they do not offer positive incentives for service that significantly exceeds standards. It calls the service standards unreasonably high and the reporting requirements burdensome.
"We've always gone to the commission on a proactive basis when when we've seen problems to be addressed," Mr. Dillon said. "The bottom line is that I don't think it's necessary to fix what isn't broken here."
Nevertheless, some telecommunications analysts believe there are powers at work that are bigger than any phone company or regulatory commission. Competition will bring more choices, they say, but also rampant cost-cutting and serious problems in connecting competing networks.
"Market forces will create a fading-away, a decline of the standard we're used to . ," said Robert Rosenberg, president of Insight Research Corp. in Livingston, N.J. "They can't go from 99.9 percent to something better."
Pub Date: 4/14/96