NORWAY – Selectmen agreed to write a letter to the Public Utilities Commission encouraging “free competition” in the cable industry.

But they stopped short of supporting a request by Time Warner officials to sign a resolution allowing Town Manager David Holt to testify before the Public Utilities Commission on behalf of the company in its attempt to expand digital phone service in Norway.

“We’d like to see free competition,” said Selectman Russ Newcomb, who made a motion at Thursday night’s board meeting to encourage competition but not to support the company’s request to have the town manager testify.

Time Warner is seeking permission to use its existing facilities in Norway to provide digital phone and business class phone service using its competitors’ land lines, which are provided by the Oxford Telephone Co. and Oxford West Telephone Co. Each company has exercised its federal “rural exemption” from competition, according Time Warner officials advised the board. Time Warner officials say the rural exemption has blocked them from providing digital phone and business class phone service in Norway by not allowing interconnection on their lines.

The two telephone companies plus FairPoint Communications offer phone service in specific parts of town. For example, residents on the Greenwood Road are serviced by Oxford Networks while FairPoint services Crockett Ridge Road. Other limited areas in town do get Time Warner digital phone service.

The resolution has a provision authorizing Holt to give testimony before the Public Utilities Commission as part of Time Warner’s attempt to get town managers’ opinions on expanding the digital service to residents and businesses in their area. The town managers’ opinions would be drafted into testimony and submitted to the commission.

Holt said he was uncomfortable with the cable company’s request unless a group of citizens requested it. “I don’t work for any of the phone companies. I don’t want to be in favor of one or the other,” he said.

During the hearing, Oxford Telephone Co. and Oxford West Telephone Co. would also have the right to call witnesses to provide testimony, according to information given to the board from attorney Amy Devin of the Portland-based law firm of Curtis Thaxter, which represents Time Warner in the action.

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