Oklahoma Corporation Commission Says Phone Bills To Go Up Again
Your phone bills, for both cellphones and landlines, could be going up again. Specifically, that Universal Service Fee that already went up about 500% this summer.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission staff said despite the increases late this summer, the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund is again completely depleted. The fee pays for, among other things, subsidies for rural telephone companies.
The federal government is decreasing the amount it pays in similar subsidies, so by Oklahoma law, rate payers have to make up the difference.
In early August, you may have noticed that Oklahoma Universal Service Fee on your phone bill went up from a few cents to three to four dollars. Now, just three months later, you can expect another three to four-dollar increase.
“Program is out of control,” said Commissioner Bob Anthony. “There are abuses, there is secrecy.”
Commissioner Anthony has an issue with the subsidies paid out from the fund to rural telephone companies -- public utilities that, he said, doesn't have to show how they are spending that money.
“Where does the money go when families have multiple family members who are getting $150,000 compensation packages? That just doesn’t sound right to the people who are having to pay for it,” said Anthony.
And down the line, an executive order from President Trump said American companies can no longer purchase telecom equipment from China, specifically the company Huawei.
Anthony believes Oklahoma telecom companies have already likely invested tens of millions of dollars in that equipment. And now, Anthony fears the same state law will mean Oklahoma ratepayers will be on the hook for that too.
“That could cost another 50 to 100 million dollars a year or a whole lot more,” said Anthony.
Anthony has contacted every member of the legislature to try and get them to cap the subsidies.