Regulators may free up
Qwest a bit
The Arizona Republic
Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005
Qwest Communications moved a step closer to regulatory freedom in Arizona this week when state regulators drafted a plan that would allow the telephone company to collect millions in extra revenue by changing prices for some services.
The deregulation plan written by Arizona Corporation Commission staff would permit Qwest to take in an additional $31.8 million in the first year and $43.8 million in the second year and beyond by changing prices to services such as voice mail, billing and collection. Corporation commissioners still must approve the plan before any changes take effect.
Qwest has aggressively sought to deregulate some services in Arizona and other states so it can better compete against the likes of cable, wireless and Internet phone providers that have chipped away at the company's 14-state territory.
The Baby Bell argues that monopoly-era regulations should no longer apply because competition is so stiff. Qwest now counts 2.4 million local, long-distance, high-speed Internet and other connections in Arizona, down from 3.3 million in 2000.
Although the plan allows more flexibility in establishing prices, Qwest spokesman Jeff Mirasola said it would be difficult for Qwest to hike prices without losing customers to competitors.
"It's way too competitive," Mirasola said. "It's not even realistic to be working on any plan that would include price increases."
The 38-point plan divides Qwest's services into four categories and gives the company more say over establishing those prices.
Basic phone-service rates for businesses and consumers would be capped for three years under the plan.
Consumers will reap some benefits under the agreement. The fee for non-listed telephone numbers would drop by 50 cents to 80 cents per month, and Qwest would be required to double the $1 million it now provides in telephone assistance for the medically needy.