MN Telecom Company to Cease Operations in Jan.

Digital Telecommunications, Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in August, attributes its decision to close to an ongoing dispute with Qwest Communications International, Inc.

In mid-January, thousands of consumers in Minnesota will be required to find a new telecommunications provider.

Winona-based Digital Telecommunications, Inc. (DTI), will cut off its services on January 13.

The company announced its plans to close in a “notice of disconnection” to customers, which was posted on its Web site.

DTI Chief Financial Officer Tom Siewert said in a Monday phone interview that the company attributes its closure to an ongoing dispute with Denver-based Qwest Communications International, Inc.

Siewert said that in fall 2006, Qwest hiked its rates on some of its services by 450 percent. DTI objected to the price increase, and until recently the case has been under consideration by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Siewert describes the battle as a “long, drawn-out legal process.” “They're an aggressive company that increased our rates substantially,” he added.

DTI filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Minnesota. According to DTI's bankruptcy filing, it owed Qwest the most of any creditor-more than $1.8 million.

The company said on its Web site that it has been unable to reorganize since filing for bankruptcy and will cease operations, including all telecommunications services.

DTI currently provides telecommunications services in Iowa and Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, Rochester, Owatonna, and Winona, according to Siewert.

Siewert said that the company at one time employed 25 people, but due to cuts following the bankruptcy filing, it now employs 11-all of whom will lose their jobs.

DTI was required to notify its customers about the discontinuation of its services. According to Siewert, the company mailed roughly 3,400 notifications.

DTI customers are encouraged to transfer services to another telecommunications provider before the disconnection date. A list of authorized providers can be found here.