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State regulators recommend more pricing flexibility for CenturyLink phone rates

Rita R. Robinson

Seattle pi

August 23, 2013


Staff from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is recommending CenturyLink be allowed seven more years of pricing flexibility in setting residential and business landline telephone rates.

In supporting the renewal of the “alternative form of regulation,” or AFOR, approved in 2007, the commission regulatory staff is endorsing CenturyLink’s proposal for more flexibility in determining rates for retail telephone services.

This would mean the company would be able to change rates for most of its services without commission review. However, rates for public services, such as for 911 and low-income customers, would still be regulated. In addition, wholesale services would continue to be reviewed by the commission.

The three-member commission, which isn’t bound by the staff recommendation, will make a decision on the company’s AFOR request this fall.

CenturyLink affiliates included in the settlement agreement filed Friday are: CenturyTel of Washington, Gig Harbor and Cheney; CenturyTel of Inter Island, San Juan Islands; CenturyTel of Cowiche, Yakima County; and United Telephone of the Northwest; White Salmon, Poulsbo, Sunnyside, and Prosser.

Also covered under the proposed plan are CenturyLink’s other major service territories including Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver, and Spokane.

Under the settlement agreement, CenturyLink companies will continue to offer stand-alone local residential and business phone service. If CenturyLink decides to stop offering these services, it would be required to petition the commission for approval.

Rates charged to long-distance carriers for using the CenturyLink phone network to begin or complete calls within the state would continue to be regulated by the commission.

In addition to the commission staff and the company, the Public Counsel Section of the Attorney General’s Office, which represents consumers in rate cases before the commission, signed the multiparty settlement.

The five combined telephone companies serve about one million residential and business phone lines in Washington state.