Background: The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) voted today in a non-binding poll on 16 elements of Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania's proposal to restructure rates. Chairman Quain summarized the polling of this very complex filing by saying that there would be no rate increases for residential customers. However, the PUC did support eliminating the Touch Tone rate for residential and business customers, charging fees for late payment of phone bills, the introduction of a new optional local usage service for metropolitan customers, and other initiatives. The following statement may be attributed to William J. Mitchell, vice president - external affairs, Bell Atlantic - Pennsylvania:
We are disappointed that the PUC didn't recognize the need to rebalance rates. This means that thousands of Pennsylvania customers will miss out on opportunities to save each month on their telephone bills. It also means that high rates for some services will continue to subsidize local service in many parts of the state. Even with the modest increases proposed, telephone service is the best buy in town. As they have for years, rural customers are paying less than urban customers for the same kind of local telephone service.
The Pennsylvania market already is competitive. Seven companies are approved to provide local telephone service, and eight more are waiting in the wings. In a competitive environment like Pennsylvania's, prices must reflect the actual cost of providing the service. This is a guiding principle in the Telecommunications Act, and it is sound public policy. We urge the PUC to adopt final policies that encourage open, fair competition among local telephone service providers across the Commonwealth, placing no carrier at a distinct disadvantage.