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Legislation Could Send Phone Bills Soaring

March 24th, 2009 by flanews

The price you pay for a home phone could go up as much as 20 percent a year under legislation moving in Tallahassee. Lawmakers want to lift regulations for landline companies, but as Whitney Ray tells us, the bill would have to get past the governor who is standing against all rate hikes.

46-year old John Oliver relies on his disability check and a movie theater job to pay his rent, buy his groceries, and purchase home phone service. Legislation moving in Tallahassee could allow his phone company to increase rates 20 percent.

If it goes up that much, then I couldnt afford it, said Oliver.

But phone companies say they cant afford to continue operate under the current restrictions. The rise of the cell phone is making it harder for landline companies to compete. Bill Sponsor Will Weatherford says state restrictions on landline companies are outdated.

We have to bring technology and regulation up to the 21st century, said Weatherford.

If regulations are lifted, the cost of basic service would remain the same but other features like call waiting and caller ID could be go up 20 percent a year. Governor Charlie Crist said now is not the time to raise rates.

This is a time when Floridians are tightening their belts and struggling to make ends meet so a bill that would allow those kinds of rate increases I wouldnt be inclined to sign, said Crist.

AARP of Florida is also taking a stand against the bill. The advocacy group says the increase could price some of their members out of phone service.

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