October 25, 1997 in Nation/World

Us West Rate Hike Endorsed Commission Staff Backs Rate Hike Worth $70.3 Million

From Staff And Wire Reports

The staff of the Washington Utility and Transportation Commission recommended Friday that US West Communications get all of a proposed $70.3 million-a-year telephone rate hike.

The increase, which US West contends is badly needed, would boost residential customers’ basic telephone rates 25 percent, from $10.50 a month to $13.10. The company had asked for a $3 increase, but staff calculated the $2.60 rise would be sufficient to meet the $70.3 million target.

But Glenn Blackmon, assistant director for telecommunications, said the trade-off is allowing customers only one free directory-assistance call per month instead of two, as US West had proposed.

All other directory-assistance calls would cost 60 cents. Those calls cost 35 cents now.

Also, US West would be penalized $50 for missing a customer-service appointment.

The rate proposal would boost business rates from the current $25 to $27.

The recommendation will be considered by the commissioners in January, following several public hearings around the state.

The Spokane hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m., Nov. 18, at Spokane Falls Community College.

US West has been fighting regulators since 1995 for a big rate increase that would double residential rates. Regulators denied that increase and ordered the company to instead cut rates and improve service. The company is challenging that decision in the state Supreme Court.

Friday’s rate increase announcement is separate, and based on the company’s claim, and commission staff’s agreement, that US West did not earn its allowed profit margin in 1996.

US West spokeswoman Dana Smith said the company prefers the simplicity of its original rate proposal, but has no major problems with the staff recommendations.

, DataTimes

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