"Call" to Opposition Over Imminent Phone Rate Hike

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Your phone bill is about to go up. The Public Service Commission approved the hike in 2003, but it’s been tied up in court until recently. The first of several yearly hikes will show up on your November bill.

Using Halloween props, consumer advocates are calling the hike monstrous.

Bentley Lipscomb with AARP says, “Keep in mind that a substantial part of these increases are no different, in our opinion, than tax increases.”

Utilities doled out $2.7 million in campaign contributions to get the hike through the Legislature. he law allows 20 percent annual hikes every year after the initial increases. So in a bit of wishful thinking, advocates are calling on consumers to revolt.

Lillian Johnson, a consumer advocate, says, “We need to become the nightmare next November for policymakers who have allowed the process to be co-opted by special interests.”

The hikes were allowed on the theory they would spur competition.

Voice over Internet companies have been signing up customers at record rates, but the service isn’t available in every area code. Jeb Bush, who signed the law into effect, says he has no regrets.

Gov. Jeb Bush says, “It’s working. It has created more investment in technologies.”

The monthly hikes do not apply to business service, just residential customers.

Consumer advocates say the law that made these rate increases possible also strips the Public Service Commission of its authority to regulate the quality of service, which means you’ll have even fewer rights when there’s a dispute with the phone company.