Phone Rate Debate Rages on in Florida Legislature

Legislation allowing the largest phone rate hike in state history was done in the name of competition, and was supposed to open new communications doors. But so far, say consumer advocates, all it's done is open your wallet.

Lori Parham with AARP says, “For seniors of fixed income, this rate increase is just more than they can bear when you think about prescription drugs costs, Medicare premiums, increased insurance costs.”

Most galling to advocates is a provision that lets phone companies raise your rates by 20 percent a year without asking anyone if it’s all right.

While in the law, Sprint calls the provision a fantasy.

Charles Wehwinkel, Vice President of Sprint, says, “Competitors will be a governor on the marketplace and will keep prices from going up.”

But the rising rates are threatening to be a major issue in fall campaigns and may soon be coming to a TV near you. Three state lawmakers who have filed legislation to repeal the bill that allowed all of the hikes.

Sen. Mike Fasano, (R) New Port Richey, says, “Twenty percent rate increases on top of the largest rate increase in Florida history is an affront to consumers.”

In the end, turning back hikes already approved is a long shot, but eliminating the 20 percent provision would be considered a victory just in time for the fall elections.

Sprint, Verizon and Bell South will each be able to add another 20 percent a year to your phone bills unless the law is changed this spring.