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PSC report: Cost to talk up 53 percent

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Missouri phone customers are taking it on the chin for basic conversation.

The average rate for Missouri residential landline customers increased 49 percent in the last three years to $17.11 a month in 2010, according to a Feb. 3 report by the state’s Public Service Commission staff to the Missouri General Assembly.

For business customers, the statewide average rate increased 15 percent to $34.35 a month in 2010 from $29.77 a month in 2007, when the last report on landline phone rates was filed.
The overall average rate for both residential and business customers increased by 53 percent to $22.49 a month in 2010 from $14.66 a month in 2007.

Bundling its services has made the cost increase minimal for Springfield check service and verification company Electronic Check Services Inc., said President Derron Winfrey.

“A lot of it is due to volume,” Winfrey said. “Outbound long distance bills have gone up slightly.”

Winfrey estimated that his company logs about 800,000 calls a month through provider Windstream and numerous long distance companies, Winfrey said.

The legislature ordered the studies to be conducted as part of Senate Bill 237, which passed in August 2005 and deregulated some telecommunications pricing by the PSC.
Under the law, if competitive status was granted in telephone company exchanges, the company would be allowed to raise or lower telephone rates at its own discretion in the competitive exchanges.

In theory, those rates would be determined by the marketplace and not the PSC. The law also deregulated pricing for telephone packages, or bundles, of services, according to the PSC. Subsequent legislation further deregulated telecommunications pricing, billing and quality of service. The PSC is investigating the quality of service received by Missouri customers.

“While the commission has limited authority over telephone companies in Missouri, we are still interested in receiving customer comment and will continue to monitor telephone company rates and performance to make sure that customers are treated fairly regarding price and customer service,” PSC Chairman Robert M. Clayton III said in a news release.[[In-content Ad]]

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