West Virginians to Receive $26.2 Million in Credits On Phone Bills This Year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians will save a total of $26.2 million on their local phone bills this year as a result of a federal program that helps keep local phone rates affordable.

Beginning with January bills, residential customers will see a monthly credit of up to $4 in their basic local telephone service. Business customers will receive a credit of up to $6.50 monthly.

"We're grateful for any assistance that helps our customers," said Gale Given, president of Verizon West Virginia. The monies for the credit come from a Universal Service Fund established by the Federal Communications Commission to help predominantly rural states curb the high cost of providing local phone service. This is the second year in a row that Verizon West Virginia has received a subsidy.

"It's extremely costly to offer phone service in West Virginia because of our mountainous terrain and largely rural population," Given explained.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) has decided how the dollars will be spread among the company's customers. Residential customers with Frequent Caller service will receive a monthly credit of $4 or 14 percent off the basic rate.

Monthly credits for other basic residential services are as follows: Community Plus Caller, $2.80; Community Caller, $2; and Thrifty Caller, $1.

Business customers with Frequent Caller service will receive a monthly credit of $6.50, a 12-percent reduction off the basic rate. Those businesses with Thrifty Caller service will be credited $3 each month.

This year's subsidy from the federal Universal Service Fund is nearly $5 million below last year's allocation. The amount of the allocation is based on a formula that examines Verizon's total telephone access lines in the state and the cost of providing service to those lines.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, is one of the world's leading providers of communications services.

Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with more than 101 million access line equivalents and more than 26 million wireless customers. A Fortune 10 company with more than 260,000 employees and approximately $60 billion in 1999 revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.