April Fools: AT&T’s “Competitive Rates” Are A Joke

The California Commission that deregulated phone rates is looking foolish today in the face of yet another rate hike from AT&T

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network

The California Commission that deregulated phone rates is looking foolish today in the face of yet another rate hike from AT&T. Varying rates for measured rate local phone service and urban measured calling zones ("ZUM Zones") doubled, tripled and in some cases quadrupled effective April 1. These increases mean that whenever AT&T customers call to nearby cities or towns, for example from San Francisco to Oakland or from San Jose to Palo Alto, they will have to pay more.

"From the customers’ perspective, this is no laughing matter," said TURN Telecommunications Director Regina Costa. "Rates for bundled service, as well as every other service including call waiting, Caller ID and directory assistance have been skyrocketing. Collectively, Californians are paying millions more to AT&T."

The dramatic increases in phone rates began when the California Public Utilities Commission voted to deregulate phone service in 2006. Costa said constantly rising phone bills prove that "competitive rates are a joke" in California. "Rates that were formerly cost-based are now greed-based, and there seems to be no end to the phone companies’ greed," she said.

The California State Senate today began debate over legislation that would turn back one of the increases, the unlisted number charge. Although cell phone customers are entitled to an unlisted number for free, AT&T, Verizon and other phone companies are imposing what amounts to a privacy penalty on landline customers. TURN, State Senator Sheila Kuehl and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse are the primary backers of SB 1423, a bill to ban this privacy penalty.