Oklahoma Phone Surcharge Goes Up Almost 500%, More Increases Coming
OKLAHOMA CITY - You may have noticed your phone bill went up this month. That's because of a 400% to 500% increase in what is called the Oklahoma Universal Service Fee. Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony said you probably won't be happy about what you are paying for.
The Corporation Commission oversees the fund that, Anthony said, right now despite the recent increase, is depleted. Which means, unless something is done, there will likely be more increases to your bill coming.
In the pile of paperwork Anthony has compiled on this case is his own phone bill.
“Landline service has gone up from 75 cents a month to $3.95 a month,” said Anthony.
Anyone who has a phone or cellphone are likely seeing increases.
The fee pays for, among other things, subsidies for rural telephone companies. It's going up because the federal government is decreasing the amount it pays in similar subsidies, so by Oklahoma Law, rate payers have to make up the difference.
“If it was a few pennies or a few nickels or dimes so be it,” said Anthony. “But it’s gone up four or five hundred percent. It’s going to go up even more, because there’s other cases in the pipeline.”
So, Anthony has written a letter to all legislators asking them to change the law, saying Oklahomans should not be on the hook for subsidy payments to “the owners of a couple dozen privileged independent telephone companies” that average a million dollars annually, and enables the companies to pay numerous family members over $150,000 a year.
“I have asked tell me the last name of the people on your payroll,” recalled Anthony. “Tell me how many make over a $100,000 dollars salary or compensation. And there’s a lot of them.”
An attorney representing many of these telephone companies said the subsidies are scrutinized by Corporation Commission staff and he believes there are no abuses. In addition, he has offered to sit down with Anthony moving forward to address his concerns.