California phone rates rising [Telecom]

The last half of Dave Lazarus' latest column about health care costs has this interesting addendum:

[...] Phone rates rising

The consumer-watchdog division of the California Public Utilities Commission is calling on regulators to extend price caps for basic residential phone rates. Limits on how much rates can go up will end Jan. 1.

A recent report by the commission's Division of Ratepayer Advocates concluded that deregulation of California's phone market hasn't resulted in increased competition and, instead, has led to higher prices for various services.

"Lifting the price caps on ancillary services has served only to raise rates for consumers," said Joe Como, the division's acting director. "The same will happen to basic rates on Jan. 1 unless the CPUC acts now to protect consumers who depend on affordable phone service."

A separate report by California's Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes found that state regulators have largely ignored the telecom market after declaring four years ago that sweeping deregulation would usher in a new era of market competition and lower prices for consumers.

According to the report, AT&T and Verizon control 85% of all land lines statewide and 65% of telecom services in general -- about the same market share they held before deregulation. Meanwhile, prices for some services, such as having an unlisted phone number, have soared by as much as 600%.

Como said the commission should maintain limits on price hikes for basic residential phone service "until the CPUC sets rules that will result in reasonable and affordable rates."

A spokeswoman for the commission said it would review the division's request. In the meantime, don't hold your breath.

Reply to
Thad Floryan
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