Florida Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Largest Phone Rate Hike in History

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The State Supreme Court is considering whether phone companies should be able to go forward with their largest rate increase in history. A 2003 law allowed the rate hike, but it was also supposed to increase competition to benefit customers.

Florida’s attorney general is arguing the only benefit will be to the big phone company’s bottom line.

The state’s highest court is now entering the battle over whether phone companies should be able to hike your bill as much as $7 a month.

Florida Attorney Gen. Charlie Crist has been leading the charge to overturn the state Public Service Commission’s decision to approve the rate increase.

“The statute requires that this benefit residential consumers. What the PSC does is exactly the opposite.”

The $343 million rate increase was supposed to spur competition that would eventually lead to lower rates and better service for residential customers, but opponents argue that hasn’t happened, here or anywhere.

Deputy Solicitor Gen. Lynn Hearn says there’s no evidence from other states that similar changes have brought about competition.

But the phone companies argue competition and better service are on the way. They say the hold up is all the lawsuits. Charles Rehwinkel represents Sprint.

“As I see it, competitors are poised and ready to go when they get the right signal and the signal has not been given because we’ve been held up for over a year now while the case is being resolved.”

But Charlie Crist isn’t buying it.

“The rate increase is not reasonable, it’s not affordable, and it’s certainly not in the best interest of residential customers.

The rate hike will remain on hold while the high court considers the case. The court generally issues its rulings in about six months.