Qwest Troubles

(Minneapolis-AP) -- An administrative law judge in Minnesota Friday ruled that Denver-based Qwest deliberately violated federal laws to block local telephone competitors.

Qwest could face fines of 50 million if the ruling is upheld by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The ruling could hurt the company's chances of offering long distance in that state.

The ruling by Judge Allan Klein says Qwest violated federal law 25 times through 12 secret agreements that favored some of its telephone competitors over others. The agreements provided the competitors with discounted telephone services.

Qwest says federal law is murky on these issues. It says it eventually will be up the Federal Communications Commission to decide the matter -- not an administrative law judge.