See more of the story

State regulators say CenturyLink didn't properly reimburse consumers for a recent two-week phone outage in Minneapolis triggered by copper wire theft.

About 150 CenturyLink customers in south Minneapolis were left without landline phone service in October after a CenturyLink cable was cut and stolen, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

CenturyLink only provided bill credits to two phone customers who reported the outage instead of all customers who lost service, the Commerce Department said in a complaint filed this week with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

"The Commission's rules, however, require CenturyLink to provide such credits to all customers (who) it knows lose, and remain out of, service for more than 24 hours," Commerce said in the filing.

CenturyLink contends that even if it knows multiple customers have lost service during an outage, the company will only give billing credits to those who report it, Commerce said in its complaint.

CenturyLink said it's reviewing Commerce's allegations.

"Once service is restored, we work with impacted customers when they call in to determine potential credits," the company said in a statement. "We have done so here and will review whether additional customers are entitled to credits."

CenturyLink also said that "vandalism, specifically copper theft, is a growing public safety issue. This is a costly crime where both our customers and our company pay the price."

Copper theft has been an issue for years nationally, exacerbated by high copper prices in 2021 and 2022.

Prices hit a record high of $4.80 per pound in April. They've since retreated to about $3.80 per pound, but that is still above price levels for most of the past decade.

After the heist of CenturyLink cable, a customer in south Minneapolis reported an outage to the company on Oct. 10, the Commerce complaint said. CenturyLink restored service on Oct. 25 and gave the customer a $60.77 bill credit.

That same customer also submitted a repair ticket to CenturyLink for a neighbor who lost service. The neighbor got a $6.53 bill credit.

The south Minneapolis outage also affected internet service for some CenturyLink customers, according to the Commerce Department. But the department does not regulate internet service.

CenturyLink, Minnesota's largest landline telephone provider, is part of Monroe, La.-based Lumen Technologies.