By Scott Rothschild
Topeka -- Notices are being mailed to alert people that state officials are considering an increase in local telephone rates and a reduction of rates for long-distance calls within Kansas.
Whether your monthly telephone bill would be higher or lower under the proposal would depend on your calling habits.
According to the staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission, if you are a customer of Southwestern Bell and make more than 89 minutes of toll calls per month, the decrease in long-distance rates would offset the increase in local rates. If you make less than 89 minutes of calls per month, your bill would go up.
If you are a Sprint customer, the break-even mark would be 245 minutes of in-state long distance calls per month, according to the staff.
The notices have been enclosed in phone bills for the July billing cycle.
Southwestern Bell has already started mailing those out, while Sprint will start next week, according to spokesmen for each company.
The rate proposal is part of a review by the KCC of what are called intrastate access charges.
These are the fees that local telephone companies charge long distance companies for access their lines for in-state long distance calls.
The commission was seeking to determine whether the access charges were higher than the actual cost.
Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., AT&T Communications of the Southwest, Sprint/United and Sprint Communications Co. reached an agreement that the companies said would reduce intrastate access charges and long distance rates.
The KCC staff has also signed the agreement, but the agency representing consumers opposes it, saying the companies have not justified a rate increase.
Under the agreement, residential customers of Southwestern Bell would see monthly increases for local telephone service ranging from $1.65 to $2. Southwestern Bell has about 85 percent of the state's customers, according to the KCC.
Southwestern Bell also would automatically include its $1.15 per month charge for touch-tone dial service in everyone's bill.
Business customers would see a rate increase of between 85 cents and $2.50 per month.
Rates for Sprint/United would increase in the range of $1.05 to $1.50 per month.
But while local rates would go up, AT&T says it will reduce long distance rates nearly 30 percent and Sprint Long Distance from between 15 percent and 22 percent.
The KCC will accept written comments on the proposed change in rates through Friday, Aug. 24.
Comments regarding the case should refer to Docket No. 01-GIMT-082-GIT and be sent to the KCC Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 SW Arrowhead Road, Topeka 66604.
Comments also may be submitted by e-mail at email@example.com or submitted through the KCC's Web site at www.kcc.state.ks.us
A hearing on the proposal before the KCC, originally scheduled for this week, has been postponed until Aug. 8-9.
-- Staff writer Scott Rothschild can be reached at (785) 354-4222.