Verizon To Cap Basic Phone Rates through 2005 In West Virginia

BACKGROUND - Verizon West Virginia (formerly Bell Atlantic - West Virginia) has been operating since 1988 under a progressive regulatory plan that governs how the company will be regulated in an environment of growing competition. That Incentive Regulation Plan, which was approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC), expired earlier this year. Verizon, the PSC's Consumer Advocate Division and PSC staff have reached agreement on a new plan. The ''joint stipulation,'' as it is called, was filed with the PSC Aug. 9. The following statement should be attributed to Gale Given, president of Verizon West Virginia:

''This plan assures that phone service will remain affordable for West Virginians. Not only are basic rates capped through the year 2005, but during that time some rates also will be reduced overall by more than $20 million a year.

''The plan also assures that Verizon will continue to fund economic development and educational initiatives such as its highly acclaimed WORLD SCHOOL program. Through WORLD SCHOOL, Verizon is bringing high-speed Internet connections to public and private schools throughout the state.

''In addition, under the terms of the plan, Verizon will continue to build a sophisticated network to support high-speed voice, data and video telecommunications services.

''We also will contribute $15 million to help underwrite the costs associated with standardized mapping and addressing. This is a necessary step to bring effective Enhanced 911 services to all West Virginians, and it will help emergency crews more easily locate 911 callers.

''Changes in the telecommunications landscape demand new and innovative approaches to regulation. We're pleased that the commission recognizes this. We're confident that members will agree that this plan is clearly in the best interests of all West Virginians.''