Consumer Group Predicts Some Higher Phone Bills

Compiled by Jack Searles

Residential customers of Thousand Oaks-based GTE California who make few local toll calls will be hit hard by the state's new phone rates policy, according to TURN, a consumer watchdog group whose official name is Toward Utility Rate Normalization.

While the cost of toll calls for residential customers of GTE, AT&T;, Sprint and other long-distance carriers went down as of Jan. 1, GTE's basic residential rate went up sharply--increasing to $17.25 from $11.20 monthly.

Pacific Bell's basic residential rate increased less, rising to $11.25 from $8.35 monthly.

Theoretically, the increases in basic service costs are balanced by reduced toll rates, which are now being set in a competitive market. This could lower overall costs for those who make many toll calls.

TURN, however, notes that many of the customers of GTE and PacBell make few non-local calls.

The group predicts that about 60% of PacBell's residential customers and 69% of GTE California's residential users will find higher phone bills in their mailboxes in the future.

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