Phone Rate Protest Filed in Legislature

Phone rates across the state went up by at least $1.39 a month and as much as $2.25 a month this past November. Two more yearly rate increases have already been approved.

After next year, the same legislation that allowed the largest rate hike in history will also allow 20 percent increases every year.

Legislation allowing the largest phone rate hike in state history was done in the name of competition, and was supposed to open new communications doors.

But so far consumer advocates like Lori Parham of AARP say it’s all done to open your wallet.

“For seniors on fixed income, this rate increase is just more than they can bear when you think about prescription drugs costs, Medicare premiums, increased insurance costs.”

Most galling to advocates is a provision that lets phone companies raise your rates by 20 percent a year without asking anyone if it’s all right. While in the law, Charles Rehwinkel of Sprint calls the provision a fantasy.

“Competitors will be a governor on the marketplace and will keep prices from going up.”

But the rising rates are threatening to be a major issue in fall campaigns and may soon be coming to a TV near you. Three state lawmakers who have filed legislation to repeal the bill that allowed all of the hikes.

One of those is Thomas is Sen. Mike Fasano.

“Twenty percent rate increases on top of the largest rate increase in Florida history is an affront to consumers.”

In the end, turning back hikes already approved is a long shot. But eliminating the 20 percent provision would be considered a victory just in time for the fall elections.

Here is a table detailing the rate hikes already approved. On top of what you see here, Sprint, Verizon and Bell South will each be able to add another 20 percent a year to your phone bills unless the law is changed this spring.

COMPANY, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

Bell South: $1.39, $1.38, $1.09, $3.86

Sprint: $2.25, $2.25, $1.36, $1.00, $6.86

Verizon: $1.58, $1.58, $1.57, $4.73

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