In an unusual move, the Utah Public Service Commission said Wednesday it will reduce Utah telephone rates by about $25 million following the conclusion of hearings for US WEST Communications early next week.
Commission Chairman Ted Stewart said the commission announced its intent early to help those involved with final testimony June 2 to focus their information with the anticipated reduction in mind. He said that will provide the commission with more specific information in formalizing how the reduction will be spread among the different customer classes."We don't like to announce part of our order while the hearing is in prog-ress, but we felt the testimony was ranging so wide that it would be helpful to those presenting arguments as we bring this to a conclusion," Stewart said.
Stewart said the final order could vary by up to $2 million either way when it is issued in July.
This will be the fourth reduction in telephone rates in two years, totaling some $60 million since December 1987.
Still to be decided is how the reduction will be spread among the different classes of telephone customers. Testimony this week before the PSC had focused on that very issue. US WEST has been seeking an increase in residential rates.
US WEST initially sought a $12.3 million rate increase but reduced that request to $7 million during the revenue phase of the hearing. The Utah Division of Public Utilities suggested a $20 million rate decrease and the Utah Committee of Consumer Services had argued for a $46 million decrease.
Utah law sets a cap on profits for regulated utilities and US WEST's earnings have exceeded that cap over the past two years by some $25 million despite the ordered rate reductions.
In 1988, US WEST lobbied the Utah Legislature for passage of a deregulation bill that would have removed the profit cap while imposing a three year rate freeze. That would have negated most of the ordered rate reductions including the $25 million now under consideration.
Similar legislation is being proposed nationally but is being opposed by a coalition of state regulatory commissions.
Utahns can comment on the proposed rate reduction Friday beginning at 10 a.m. The PSC has scheduled a public witness day to hear comments from citizens. The hearing is in room 426 of the Heber Wells Building, Second East and Third South.