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FCC refuses to delay phone rate cut

June 19, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The federal government’s refusal to halt a restructuring of telephone prices to lower monthly bills is prompting opponents to consider other ways to suspend the new rules.

The Federal Communications Commission’s action Wednesday disappointed two local phone companies, SBC Communications Inc. and GTE Service Corp., which had asked the FCC to suspend the rules.

The FCC said the companies had not satisfied legal requirements to do so.

SBC, which has filed an appeal of the FCC’s regulations in a federal court in St. Louis, now plans to ask the court to suspend the regulations.

``We are disappointed by the FCC’s refusal to grant a stay,″ said SBC Senior Vice President Zeke Robertson. He said the new provision would jeopardize investment and affordable phone service.

GTE hasn’t decided whether to ask a court to suspend the regulations but is exploring its legal options, said spokeswoman Briana Gowing.

The FCC’s plan, adopted in May, would revamp myriad access payments local phone companies get for routing long-distance calls and for subsidizing local phone service.

The FCC ordered those fees _ which now total $23 billion and make up about half the average long-distance bill _ cut by $1.7 billion starting July 1.

To make up for the lost revenue, local phone companies say they will be forced to either ask state regulators to raise local rates or reduce investment in their phone networks.

The average long-distance bill is about $22.50 a month. The FCC says its plan would reduce the bill by 8 percent to 10 percent.

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