PUC relaxes regulation of CenturyLink land-line pricing
The Oregon Public Utility Commission just made it easier for CenturyLink to adjust prices for the landline services it provides for residential and business customers.
The PUC at the end of September approved a request by CenturyLink to be allowed to make price changes to its landline services without having to seek permission from the commission.
Under standard practices, telecommunications companies are required to receive approval from the PUC in order to increase or decrease prices for services. The average turnaround from the time a request is submitted to the time the commission hands down approval is approximately 30 days, Kandi Young, PUC public information officer, said. However, the process can take longer if the commission feels there are discrepancies in the amount of the increase or decrease requested.
In its request asking the PUC to relax pricing regulation for its landline service, CenturyLink said a "pricing flexibility plan" is necessary to allow the telecommunications to be able to adjust prices more quickly "in the face of increasing competition." CenturyLink currently provides 300,000 landlines to residential and business customers in Oregon, but that number continues to decrease.
"Customers have been rapidly abandoning their landline phones for wireless and internet-based services, requiring us to change how we approach regulation, Megan Decker, chair of the PUC said.
While the commission's approval of the CenturyLink request represents a relaxation of regulations, it isn't a full deregulation of the telecommunications provider's landline service, Young said. The easing of regulatory oversight by the PUC only applies to pricing for landline service; changes to other aspects of that service still require commission approval.
In addition, while there are no limitations to how much of CenturyLink can change landline service prices for business customers, the PUC identified limitations that affect how much CenturyLink can change prices for residential service.
The company can increase the price of residential primary service by up to $10 per month over a four-year period without PUC approval. However, increases cannot exceed $3 per month in any plan year. Any rate increases outside those specified limits will require CenturyLink submit a request to the PUC, which would then be reviewed by staff and subjected to a public hearing process before being approved or rejected by the commission.
Oregon isn't the only state where CenturyLink has sought a relaxation of regulation of pricing for its landline services.
In 2014, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved a request from CenturyLink to raise service prices in that state. The Washington state commission placed limits on the amount prices could be increased within a specific time period and also continued to maintain regulation of CenturyLink's 911 services and low-income assistance programs.
Three years later, in 2017, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved a similar request by CenturyLink for all but five of the state's 109 telephone exchanges. That approval also came with limitations on increase amounts.
The telecommunications provider's request for relaxed regulation of landline service in Wyoming last year ran into some snags, however. AARP, the organization that advocates for American ages 50 and older, raised an outcry over the request. Sam Shumway, the state director of AARP's Wyoming chapter, told a local news outlet that oversight by the Wyoming Public Service Commission was necessary to prevent CenturyLink from increasing costs to older customers while providing a lower quality of service.