That state has been the only one in US West's 14-state service area without digital subscriber line (DSL) service, and has become a glaring example of how rural areas have been excluded from the boom in broadband services. US West is now moving quickly to erase this blot from its record.
"This ends two years of legal wrangling and delays," spokeswoman Valerie Santillanes said. "This will give us the opportunity to roll out DSL here for the first time."
US West has been a leader among big local phone companies in deploying its high-speed DSL service, a technology that allows Net traffic and telephone calls to share existing phone lines. The company has also stepped ahead of its peers in offering non-traditional products such as a discounted DSL and high-speed WebTV-like services.
But at the same time, US West has been the subject of bitter complaints by some consumers and Internet service providers. They say the company hasn't maintained its core phone networks and has made it difficult for independent ISPs to gain access to high-speed lines.
The company has been engaged in several battles with New Mexico regulators. Before US West could deploy DSL in some areas, local regulators wanted access to financial information that the company said was proprietary. For refusing to relinquish the information, regulators held up the company's plans for almost two years.
Yet on Tuesday, state regulators finally retreated, voting to allow US West to proceed with previous plans, representatives for the state regulators said.
US West plans to launch DSL services immediately. However, it will probably take four to six months before the appropriate equipment can be installed and brought online, Santillanes said.
The company says that New Mexico's three largest cities--Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces--would be likely to get the service soon, with other areas to follow.