Phone Fuss

The state’s highest court is now entering the battle over whether phone companies should be able to hike your bill as much as $7 a month.

Florida Attorney Gen. Charlie Crist has been leading the charge to overturn the state Public Service Commission’s decision to approve the rate increase.

Charlie Crist says, "The statute requires that this benefit residential consumers. What the PSC does is exactly the opposite."

The $343 million rate increase was supposed to spur competition that would eventually lead to lower rates and better service for residential customers, but opponents argue that hasn’t happened here or anywhere.

Lynn Hearn, Deputy Solicitor General, says, "There’s no evidence from other states that similar changes have brought about competition."

But the phone companies argue competition and better service are on the way. They say the hold up is all the lawsuits.

Charles Rehwinkel with Sprint says, "As I see it, competitors are poised and ready to go when they get the right signal, and the signal has not been given because we’ve been held up for over a year now while the case is being resolved.”

But Crist isn’t buying it.

Crist says, "The rate increase is not reasonable, it’s not affordable, and it’s certainly not in the best interest of residential customers."

The rate hike will remain on hold while the high court considers the case.

If the state Supreme Court upholds the rate increase, it would affect Bell South, Verizon and Sprint customers. There’s no time frame for the justices to decide the case, but they generally issue a ruling within six months.