US West has shed $600 million worth of rural lines over the past three years, a move federal officials are calling one of the biggest divestitures of local phone service in a decade.
The Baby Bell is unloading rural phone lines in an attempt to streamline business and pursue global telecommunications strategies.
US West will soon sell another $500 million in rural lines, bringing the total sale over the past three years to $1.1 billion.
The company has dumped 332,520 high-cost rural lines in its huge 14-state territory, which has 9 percent of the nation’s phone customers. The latest divestiture includes seven rural exchanges in Idaho.
The Federal Communications Commission said the sale represents the single largest shift in local phone service since AT&T; Corp. lost its monopoly in 1984.
“Most consumers probably don’t have the slightest idea what’s going on,” said Gary Andresen, principal telecommunications analyst with Dataquest in San Jose, Calif.
“The phone companies are getting hit by competition from all directions. What they’re doing is unloading the stuff that’s unprofitable. Farmers probably don’t make a lot of long-distance phone calls.”