Attorney General Appeals Phone Rate Hike

Bellsouth, Sprint and Verizon won a combined $355 million year rate hike just in time for Christmas. That hike would have gone into effect by late February, but Attorney General Charlie Crist is appealing, and that automatically stops the hike from taking place.

Crist will make the same arguments he made to the state public service commission, consumers don't benefit and the hike isn't revenue neutral.

"This is anything but the traditional sense of free open fair market competition. This is kind of jam it down your throat market, and it's wrong and it should not stand," says Crist.

At 14 public hearings throughout the state, more than 200 people testified the hikes would not save them money, but PSC staff told commissioners the folks who testified did not represent average Floridians. In joining the appeal, the state public counsel calls that assertion ludicrous.

"We reject that out of hand. Now whether it had some influence on the commission's decision, who can say? Will suggest that it did, and that it was not a good influence," says Harold McLeod.

The appeals process in rate cases is very complex, and it leaves plenty of room for maneuvering by the phone companies, but the ball clearly is in the phone companies’ court right now.

Unless a phone company plea overturns the stay, rates will remain at their current level until the appeal is decided, and that could take most of this year. Crist says this rate hike would never have been approved if the commissioners were still elected instead of appointed.