The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has established a task force to determine what services US WEST Communications should provide to achieve the goal of universal telephone service in the southern Idaho area.

US WEST is the largest provider of telephone service in the study area.In its order, the commission said the task force goal should be to define the adequacy of service with respect to customer access, and, when reached, the definition should be "understandable, workable and affordable."

The decision to form the group followed a hearing in Pocatello last May after the company revealed plans to restructure its residence marketing and collection management operations, including the elimination of some customer service centers.

"First, the local presence of appropriate customer service personnel has implications for universal service," the commission order said. "There is a population of ratepayers who depend upon face-to-face contact either to become connected to or to remain connected to the public switch network.

"Second, although the average statewide telephone subscriber penetration rate is quite high, the percentage of subscribership among the urban and rural poor may be distressingly low. These facts caused the commission to conclude that it must undertake an effort to determine the degree of and the causes and solutions to this problem."

The task force consists of representatives of community action agencies, consumer groups, the state economic opportunity office, the commission staff and the company.