AT&T wants to have ability to increase some rates

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Residential telephone customers in the Arabia exchange need to know about a request made by AT&T Ohio that could allow its rates for basic local service and basic Caller ID to increase each year.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will decide whether AT&T should have the ability to increase rates without the oversight that currently protects residents.

AT&T wants the freedom to raise rates for 16 of its Ohio exchanges. Under the proposed plan, AT&T could increase its monthly basic local rate by $1.25 each year and the price of basic Caller ID by 50 cents each year. AT&T already has gained this pricing flexibility for all of its other exchanges in Ohio.

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The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the residential utility consumer advocate, scrutinized AT&T’s latest application and found it failed to meet statutory requirements that these local exchanges are open to competition and residents have reasonably available alternatives.

AT&T uses competition in other parts of Ohio along with meeting a weak AT&T-designed test for allowing pricing freedom in the remaining 16 exchanges.

If the plan is approved, residential consumers who simply want basic dial tone service could see their bills increase while having few, if any, comparable choices. Customers need to be able to count on a reasonably priced telephone service, especially those customers who do not want or cannot afford a package of features or a cell phone.

The Consumers’ Counsel has opposed AT&T’s request for pricing flexibility. We hope the PUCO agrees that AT&T should not be allowed to raise basic service rates.

Janine Migden-Ostrander, Consumers’ Counsel Columbus