TECHNOLOGY & TELECOMMUNICATIONS
Pacific Bell Assails PUC Ruling: The phone giant said a preliminary ruling by a California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge would require it to pay $700 million in refunds to customers, and thus reduce the amount it would be able to invest in California’s communications network. The PUC in 1990 ordered Pacific Bell to cut rates 5% annually, before taking into account inflation, to reflect productivity gains. The rule has reduced Pacific Bell’s revenue by $628 million since then, the company said. Pacific Bell said the refunds aren’t necessary because California’s $1.2-billion local toll-call market was opened to competition this year, and the local phone market will soon follow. But the judge ruled the refunds shouldn’t be eliminated “until the commission has found that effective local competition exists.” The full commission is scheduled to consider the judge’s ruling before the end of the year.