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For Verizon, rates are relative

By LOUIS HAU, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2003

Verizon Communications is so upset with the Florida Public Service Commission's decision in October to cut the company's wholesale rates charged to competitors that it's appealing the decision all the way to the state Supreme Court.

But are those crocodile tears that Verizon is shedding? At the same time company executives in Florida were decrying the PSC's rate cut, Verizon representatives in California were encouraging regulators there to look at the new Florida rates as a useful benchmark.

In an Oct. 25 filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, Verizon California Inc. attorney Elaine Duncan urged the commission to examine the Florida decision, pointing out that regulators in Tallahassee had adopted rates that were higher than the interim rates proposed by Verizon in California. Furthermore, she said, the Florida PSC cut Verizon's rates by a smaller percentage, on average, than the company's own proposed reductions in the Golden State. Duncan viewed the new Florida rates so favorably that she characterized them this way: "The Florida Commission has now adopted Verizon's Florida (rate) studies, with some modifications."

Verizon Florida spokesman Bob Elek downplayed Duncan's remarks, arguing that they were made in an effort to sway the California commission from using an earlier rate decision in New Jersey as a yardstick, a decision that led to deeper rate cuts than those adopted in Florida.

"What (she) was saying was, 'If you've got a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, we'll take the deep blue sea,' " Elek says. "But that doesn't make the Florida decision right."

In the end, Verizon's lobbying efforts were all for naught: California regulators based their rate cuts on New Jersey's example after all. And yes, Elek says, the company is appealing that decision too.

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