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AT&T Slammed for Demanding Regulators Force Competition to Raise Rates

Chickamauga Telephone Cooperative office (Courtesy: WRCB-Chattanooga)

AT&T and some of Georgia’s cable operators are under attack by telephone customers outraged to learn of a plan to force two independent phone companies to raise their rates because some think they charge too little.

Residents packed the Chickamauga Civic Center Monday night to loudly protest an effort by AT&T and the Georgia Cable TV Association to force both Chickmauga and Ringgold Telephone to raise their rates, in some cases by 100 percent.

“We’re here today because another company has complained about Chickamauga Telephone rates [claiming] that they are too low,” said Chickamauga city superintendent of schools Melody Day. “Maybe it’s just that their rates are too high.”

Retirees complained the rate increases demanded by AT&T and cable operators were unaffordable, with residential customers facing hikes of 42% for phone service. AT&T claims both phone companies are subsidizing their rates with money from the Universal Service Fund to an artificially low level. AT&T rates are considerably higher, and now AT&T wants the two independents to raise their rates accordingly.

If AT&T has their way with the Georgia Public Service Commission, Chickamauga residential customers currently paying $13.30 per month will be billed $18.83 per month for basic phone service with a limited local calling area. Business customer rates would double from $20.40 to $40.80 per month.

Local businesses and politicians are complaining loudly about the proposal, and want AT&T to mind its own business.

AT&T does not directly compete with landline service in the area, considered a suburb of nearby Chattanooga, Tenn. But cable operators do compete and AT&T sells cell phone service locally.

“It’s important for the Public Service Commission to be able to hear from our constituents around the state,” said PSC Chairman Tim Echols. “And we’re glad people packed the auditorium tonight.”

State regulators told the Times Free Press the Commission was unlikely to approve the kind of rate increase being demanded by AT&T. But they may approve a cut in state subsidies received by Chickamauga and Ringgold telephone companies, which would likely force both to raise rates anyway.

Chickamauga city manager John Culpepper said the city alone is looking at paying $200 more per month — money that will ultimately fall on the taxpayer. Culpepper says independent small businesses are already having a hard time competing with corporate America.

“When you double their rates, it is another financial impact.”

[flv width=”480″ height=”380″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WRCB Chattanooga Walker County phone customers fighting rate increase 8-13-12.mp4[/flv]

WRCB in Chattanooga reports on the unrest among phone customers in Chickamauga, Ga. over a plan by AT&T and Georgia cable companies to get regulators to force their local telephone cooperative to increase rates by as much as double. (4 minutes)

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txpatriot
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txpatriot

Nobody wants to tell the “other” side of the story:

Of course the beneficiaries of the subsidy don’t want to pay more — but I wonder how other ratepayers in Georgia feel about paying higher USF fees so a few rural customers get cheap phone service?

Cutting the subsidy sounds like the right way to go.

Scott
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Scott

Actually those USF funds are already being reduced and redirected in order to apply them towards the broadband expansion subsidy by the FCC.

While they’re cutting subsidies for small local telco’s, perhaps they could also cut or eliminate the corporate tax loopholes and grants that AT&T is getting as well.

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