Verizon rate hike criticized

EVERETT – Verizon’s proposed rate increase has shrunk, but a number of senior citizens and residents on fixed incomes said Tuesday it still would sting if approved by state regulators.

Under a compromise negotiated with state officials, Verizon’s basic telephone service rate would rise by $3.90 a month between now and July 2007. Basic residential service now costs $13 without any fees, taxes or other options.

The 30 percent increase falls short of Verizon’s original request last year to raise the standard service rate by nearly $10 a month. That doesn’t mean the smaller increase is affordable, however, said Joan Moore of Everett.

“Thirty percent is better than 75 percent, but Social Security goes up just 1 percent,” she told members of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission during a rate hearing in Everett. “It makes this very tough for senior citizens.”

Susan Paschke said that, like many, her residential telephone service actually costs more than $30 a month after adding fees and taxes.

“They have a monopoly in this area. We don’t have choices,” she said.

Everett resident Bernice Bower said higher rates make it likely that she’ll have to choose between heating her residence or paying the phone bill.

But Ron Roseman, representing AARP, said he thought Verizon’s request was a “fair and hard-fought result” of negotiations.

“If you were to come up and ask me if I thought this was the best we could get, I’d say no. But this is a compromise,” he said.

Local business people and a few residential customers voiced support for the increase.

The proposed increase is the first change in Verizon’s basic rate since 1982. If approved by the commission in April, it would come in two phases.

First, the price of basic residential and business service would go up $2.43 a month in May. Then, in July 2007, the rate would rise another $1.47 a month. Additionally, Verizon would be allowed to charge more for optional features and services, including directory assistance and call waiting.

Verizon officials have said the company’s land-line service will continue to lose money without a rate adjustment. The compromise would provide Verizon’s operation in this state with an additional $38.6 million in annual revenue, while the original rate request would have brought in $110 million annually.

Several residents at Tuesday’s public hearing talked about Verizon’s growing profits in the wireless and DSL business. Under state rules, revenue from those unregulated services usually can’t be considered when regulators examine the rates and revenue from the regulated land-line service.

Verizon’s Northwest division serves about 850,000 customers, including Snohomish County and parts of Island County.

Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or

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