Editors: Please include the following item in your news calendars. A broadcast script is included.
TACOMA – Qwest customers are invited to voice their opinions on a proposal for an alternate form of regulation that would allow the company to increase residential phone service rates without review by the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission. The proposal would also give Qwest broad pricing flexibility on bundles of services. The UTC will hold a public hearing March 6 in Tacoma to gather comments on Qwest’s request. Customers who are unable to attend are encouraged to submit comments in writing to the UTC.
WHAT: Public hearing concerning Qwest’s proposal for an alternate form of regulation that would allow the company to increase residential telephone service prices without review by the UTC and allow broad flexibility to increase prices on bundles.
WHEN: Tuesday, March 6, 2007, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Tacoma Community College
6501 South 19th St., Tacoma
Senate Room in Building 11
WHY: Qwest petitioned the commission on Oct. 20, 2006, for an alternate form of regulation. The proposal would reduce many reporting requirements currently in place and allow Qwest to increase prices for many services and bundles, including rates for basic service, without UTC approval. The allowance for one free directory assistance call would be eliminated. The plan would be in effect for four years, and would then be reviewed by the Commission to see if it should continue. Qwest claims that the changes would allow the company to be more competitive.
Qwest subscribers now pay $12.50 per month for basic phone service. Under the company’s proposal, Qwest would be allowed to increase that rate by $2 over four years (50 cents annually) so that customers would ultimately pay $14.50. The increases would occur without further WUTC approval or a review of company earnings to determine if the increase is warranted.
The Public Counsel Section of the Attorney General’s Office has recommended that if the WUTC adopts an alternative regulatory plan for Qwest, it should keep basic residential rates at current levels, and establish a service quality incentive plan to make sure that service does not deteriorate. In addition, Public Counsel recommended that individual services continue to be available separately as well as in bundles or packages, and that Qwest should make broadband DSL available to more of its customers.
The Public Counsel Section advocates for the interests of consumers on major rate cases, mergers and other rulemakings before the UTC. The office maintains contact with the public through a citizen advisory committee, community organizations, public hearings and personal contact with consumers in major cases. More information about Public Counsel’s work is available online at http://www.atg.wa.gov/utility/index.shtml.
HOW: Public Counsel encourages Qwest customers to have a voice in the decision-making process by testifying at the public hearing or submitting written comments.
Qwest subscribers who are unable to attend the public hearing in Tacoma may submit comments in writing to WUTC, P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA, 98504; by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (360) 664-4291. Include your name and mailing address, the name of the company (Qwest), and docket no. UT-061625.
BROADCAST SCRIPT (25 SECONDS): Qwest customers are invited to voice their opinions on the company’s request for alternative regulation. If approved, the proposal would allow Qwest to increase residential phone service rates by $2 over four years without state review and would reduce other regulatory requirements. The Utilities and Transportation Commission will hold a public hearing 6:30-8:30 March 6 at Tacoma Community College. Customers who are unable to attend are encouraged to submit comments in writing to the UTC.
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Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432