Editor’s note: This news release reflects the position of the telecommunications staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and NOT the views of the three-member commission. It discusses a staff recommendation that the commissioners have not yet reviewed. Any positions taken or comments offered by the commission staff regarding this proceeding should be attributed clearly to staff members and NOT to the UTC.
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Telecommunications staff from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) is recommending CenturyLink be allowed seven more years of pricing flexibility in setting residential and business landline telephone rates under a multi-party settlement agreement filed today.
In supporting the renewal of the “alternative form of regulation,” or AFOR, previously approved in 2007, the UTC regulatory staff is endorsing CenturyLink’s proposal for even 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 interest services, such as 911 and low-income, would still be regulated. In addition, wholesale services would continue to be offered in tariffs.
The three-member commission, which is not bound by the staff recommendation, will make a final decision on the company’s AFOR request this fall.
CenturyLink affiliates included in the settlement agreement are: CenturyTel of Washington (Gig Harbor and Cheney), CenturyTel of Inter Island (the San Juan Islands), CenturyTel of Cowiche (in Yakima County), and United Telephone of the Northwest (with customers in White Salmon, Poulsbo, Sunnyside and Prosser). Also covered by the plan are CenturyLink’s other major service territories including Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver, and Spokane.
The settlement agreement calls for the CenturyLink companies to continue to offer stand-alone local residential and business phone service. Should CenturyLink decide to cease offering stand-alone local residential and business phone service, it must petition the commission for approval. In-state switched access rates would remain regulated by the UTC. These are rates charged to long-distance carriers for using the CenturyLink phone network to originate or complete calls within the state.
In addition to the UTC staff and the company, the Public Counsel Section of the Attorney General’s Office signed the multiparty settlement.
The five combined telephone companies serve approximately 1 million residential and business phone lines in Washington. Headquartered in Monroe, La., CenturyLink QC is the largest local telephone company in Washington and also provides local phone service in the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Olympia, Bellingham, Aberdeen, Longview, Vancouver, Bremerton, Spokane, Moses Lake, Yakima, Pasco and Walla Walla.
The commission is the state agency in charge of regulating the rates and services of telephone companies operating in Washington (and classifying services and companies as competitive during the development of technological and market advancements in communications). It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit. The commission does not regulate wireless or Internet telephone service.