Florida Phone Rate Hikes

Tuesday the PSC approved the largest telephone rate increase in state history, but consumers still have hope.

With that vote five public service commissioners approved the largest telephone rate hike in the state's history, $355 a year. Residential customers and single line business users will ultimately pay between $3.50 and $6.86 more each month.

Commissioners say the hike is justified.

"We no longer could continue in the long term to have subsidized local rates, it's not consistent with the competitive mind," said Terry Deason, PSC commissioner.

The state's attorney general says he will immediately appeal the rate hike and that will keep it from going into effect for at least seven to eight months.

"We'll take this to the end, we will fight it. We will fight for the people. It’s the right thing to do, what happened in there is not. I'm disappointed, it's unfair, but it’s not the end,” said Attorney General Charlie Crist.

The higher rates are supposed to be accompanied by lower in state long distance rates but documents showing how much that reduction will be were x’ed out for competitive reasons.

Consumer advocates say they never had a fair chance.

"Sad day for consumers, but it wasn't a cliffhanger. I mean, I expected it from the beginning," said Mike Twomey of AARP.

But all three telephone companies say the higher rates will lead to more choices.

"They are going to see better pricing in terms of packaging, more choices in terms of the type of technology and the offerings that they get," said Marta Casas of Bellsouth.

Without an appeal the higher rates would've kicked in as early as March. The PSC made its decision after conducting 14 hearings across the state and hearing from 256 witnesses.

Nine-hundred others filed objections to the increase, but the PSC staff concluded that was not a representative sample.