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Comcast denies blocking calls

Comcast officials on Thursday denied they have blocked phone calls from Washington state customers possibly trying to switch their phone service.

Earlier this week, Qwest Communications, which is engaged in heated competition with Comcast for pay-TV, Internet and phone customers, said the cable company had blocked callers trying to reach a number that would switch them to Qwest.

Walt Neary, a Comcast spokesman, said, “Our company would never block phone calls.”

A detailed letter from Comcast attorneys accused Qwest of distorting the problem to discredit a competitor.

The letter also accused Qwest officials of knowing for at least five years that the problem of some failed calls stemmed from phone-network routing issues well-known to Qwest.

“Qwest has been aware of this issue since at least 2002 because it has had both verbal and email communication with Comcast on this exact issue,” the letter stated.

A Seattle spokesperson for Qwest, Shasha Richardson, said, “We appreciate Comcast’s quick response. We are taking a look at it now.”

Earlier this week Qwest’s public relations office sent out a release accusing Comcast of stopping some Washington customers from reaching an 800 phone number. The release said some Comcast voice customers, including two in the Spokane area, reported that problem.

Comcast officials shot back, demanding Qwest quit making that claim and if not, the cable company would seek legal solutions against Qwest.

In addition, Comcast noted that Qwest had made similar allegations about blocked phone calls in Minnesota. Those accusations were directed against cable operator Charter Communications in April.

In that case, Charter officials said the problem was caused by Qwest’s failure to provide required codes that would correctly route calls to Qwest operators. The Minnesota issue has been resolved, said Charter spokeswoman Anita Lamont.