Bill to release Verizon, Pac Bell from profit sharing with rate-payers passes committee

The Associated Press
Thursday May 02, 2002

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would suspend rules requiring SBC Pacific Bell and Verizon to share part of their profits with their customers was approved by a legislative committee Wednesday. 

The bill, by Assemblyman Rod Wright, D-Los Angeles, was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now goes in front of the full Assembly. 

The bill would freeze until 2007 a regulatory framework that’s currently in place for Verizon and Pac Bell, the companies that provide phone service for most Californians. 

It would turn into law a 1998 Public Utilities Commission decision to suspend the profit-sharing rule for one time. 

But the PUC and other opponents say the bill would suspend a key consumer safeguard — a rule that required the companies to share excess profits with ratepayers. 

“This is one of the worst bills for consumers we’ve seen in a long time,” said Lenny Goldberg, a consumer advocate for The Utility Reform Network. 

The PUC and its Office of Ratepayers Advocates warn that it could let the telecommunication giants pocket hundreds of millions more in excess profits. 

Wright said the PUC would still be able to audit companies and set rates. Suspending the rule will encourage companies to invest in new technology and in upgrading their infrastructure in California, he said.