By John Nolan
DAYTON | Verizon Communications Inc. has taken advantage of a state-granted privilege to raise rates on its own for some telephone services, Ohio's consumer advocate said Thursday.
The increases included raising the monthly charges for call forwarding from 75 cents to $2, Caller ID with name and number from $7.95 to $9.25 and three-way calling from $2.75 to $3.50, according to the Ohio Consumers' Counsel. The state agency represents residential customers in Ohio utility rate cases.
The consumers' counsel said it is the first increase Verizon has put into effect since state regulators in June gave the company permission under "elective alternative regulation" to raise rates at will for some optional service features. In exchange, the company agreed to cap prices on basic local exchange service, basic Caller ID and basic call waiting.
The price increases allow Verizon to compete with providers of wireless phone service, Internet-based phone capability and cable television companies which offer phone service, Verizon spokesman Bill Kula said.
The number of local telephone lines Verizon provides in Ohio has dropped from 976,000 in January 2003 to 852,000 in January 2006 because of the competition, Kula said. Verizon has responded by offering bundled service options to make it more affordable for customers to take combined phone, high-speed Internet and digital video services, he said.
Verizon -- which also offers wireless service -- trails only AT&T Ohio in the number of residential phone lines provided in Ohio. Verizon's service area includes parts of Montgomery, Miami, Preble, Greene, Clinton, Butler and Warren counties. Troy, Englewood and Trotwood are the largest communities Verizon serves in the region.
Eight other telephone companies, including AT&T Ohio, have received Ohio regulatory approval to raise rates for optional service in exchange for capping charges on basic service. The Ohio Consumers' Counsel said that could be unfair to consumers in areas without other providers of similar services.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2242 or snipped-for-privacy@DaytonDailyNews.com.
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