PSC Under Fire

The groups say the state Public Service Commission is letting utilities keep too much information confidential.

The state Public Service Commission has agreed to let Florida's three main phone companies raise your rates, but consumer groups say you can't find out what's behind the rate hike because the PSC is too quick to let utility companies claim information is confidential.

Walt Dartland with the Consumer Federation holds up one of hundreds of blacked-out documents from the PSC.

“When you say, this is how we evaluated it, and zip, zip, zip this is important, but now I can't get at it, and oh, I have confidentiality, so the public will never know,” says Walt.

A new report shows the PSC granted nearly every request from a utility company to keep information private, 390 requests just in the past four months. Critics say it throws a dark cloud over how the PSC reached its decision in the phone rate case.

PSC spokesman Kevin Bloom says the office of public counsel, which represents Florida citizens, had access to even the confidential stuff so nothing was done in secret, but even Florida's attorney general has some concerns that information shouldn't be kept from the public unless it's really necessary.

State agencies shouldn't be rubber-stamping requests for confidentiality.

“My sense is I don't like it. This is public business. We're talking about something that's regulated by the public, it should be in the public arena, and that's my gut on it,” says Charlie Crist.

The phone rate hike is now before the state Supreme Court where the phone companies are again asking for secrecy.

Kevin Bloom with the Public Service Commission says those requests to keep documents confidential over the past four months represent only a tiny fraction of the total documents the PSC reviews in an average case.