AT&T Alascom fights on for rate change

Posted: Wednesday, September 03, 2003

FAIRBANKS - A federal regulatory official has rejected arguments by long-distance telephone provider AT&T Alascom to justify a rate formula change the company says would lower fees for rural customers.

But the company plans to press its case to the Federal Communications Commission, said Kristi Catlin, AT&T Alascom's government relations director.

The issue came before the FCC when AT&T Alascom missed a deadline last year to report to the agency on its tariffs - how much it charges customers and other long-distance companies to carry phone traffic and why.

Catlin said a key employee retired and no one collected the necessary data for about nine months. Reconstructing the data would require analysis of 365 million daily individual call records, AT&T Alascom told the FCC in case filings.

Generally, though, AT&T Alascom has problems with the way the FCC regulates it in Alaska, and the company used some of those complaints to support its request for a waiver from the tariff-filing requirement.

In an Aug. 13 ruling, a top official at the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau rejected Alascom's arguments.

"The conditions that led the commission to repeatedly reaffirm Alascom's tariff filing obligation persist today," said Jeff Carlisle, the bureau's senior deputy chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau.

Carlisle said AT&T Alascom failed to show its current cost allocation model is performing so poorly that it should be scrapped. He ordered the company to file its tariffs and supporting data by Sept. 26.

The ruling illustrates flaws in AT&T Alascom's arguments, said a spokeswoman for General Communication Inc., Alascom's main competitor. The FCC rules are necessary because AT&T Alascom remains a dominant, monopoly phone provider in the Bush, said GCI spokeswoman Tina Pidgeon, a Washington, D.C., attorney.

But AT&T Alascom is at a disadvantage, Catlin said. Despite being one company, AT&T and Alascom must operate in many ways as separate entities in Alaska.

Alascom, for example, must file information with the FCC separately from AT&T to maintain its license to provide interstate service to Alaska.

"We have to basically do backbends any time we want to do business in Alaska," Catlin told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

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