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Dispute Over Phone Rate Increase Continues

The final decision on a phone rate hike for Florida could be made on information that may never be made public. The proposed telephone rate hike $355 million is supposed to be a wash for consumers, higher local rates, lower long distance rates, but the attorney general told the PSC that there is no evidence that average citizens will break even.

"It’s hard to comprehend at least for me how a $350 million increase is revenued neutral," said Attorney General Charlie Crist.

The public's lawyer was more blunt.

"You should toss this case into the legal dumpster," said Harold McLean, Public Counsel.

But the PSC voted against the attorney general and voted to keep the rate case alive.

"Hopefully they will come to the right conclusion at the end of that hearing that in fact it should not be granted, I wish it would've been done already but that's okay," Crist adds.

In the end the final decision to raise your rates could be made on information that long distance companies want kept secret for competitive reasons, but lawyers for consumer advocates who have seen the documents say there is little to justify the secrecy.

"Most of the information is just embarrassing to these people and that's why they want it to be hidden. It shows how little they are going to give back to residential consumers," says Michael Twomey, an AARP lawyer.

But the cat is out of the bag, one lawyer testified that 90 percent of the burden would be paid by consumers or 90 percent of the benefit would go to business. Given that kind of a breakdown one commissioner told the companies he thought they ought to go back to the drawing board.

Sprint is asking for the largest increase over the next two years. The hearings will continue throughout the week and perhaps into next week.


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