GTE Agrees to $30 Refund per Customer

The Tulsa World - November 19, 1999

GTE Corp. has agreed to refund $30 to users of each of its 120,000 local access lines in Oklahoma. The refund, totaling $3.6 million, is stipulated as part of a rate review by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. 

Commission and company executives said Oklahoma's GTE customers, including about 72,000 in Broken Arrow and southeast Tulsa, will receive the refund checks in the April billing statements. Retail residential and business customers in good standing as of March 31, 2000, will receive the checks, officials said. 

GTE, an Irving, Texas-based company with $25 billion in revenues last year, is the second-largest local telephone company in Oklahoma. The refunds will not be affected by GTE's sale last month of its Oklahoma properties to Dallas-based dba Communications LLC. That deal, which is subject to approval by state and federal regulators, is not expected to close before June, company officials said. 

The agreement reached between GTE and the Corporation Commission also requires GTE to discontinue its 5-year-old $1.86 per month network modernization surcharge when the company has recovered $14.68 million. As part of the agreement, GTE will forego recovery of its additional modernization investment of $7.3 million, commission and company officials said. 

Commission Chairman Bob Anthony said the GTE settlement demonstrates the effectiveness of the commission's rate reviews. 

"This $11 million savings to GTE ratepayers is another example of the benefits achieved by allowing the commission to work with big utility companies to benefit the citizens of Oklahoma, rather than seeking political answers that benefit only select groups," Anthony said. "It comes on the heels of a $5 million credit to residential customers of Oklahoma Natural Gas Co., appearing as a $7.11 per customer reduction on last month's bill. 

"Our staff is currently working with ONG, Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. and other utilities to provide further benefits to Oklahoma ratepayers." 

Anthony has been critical of the Legislature's passage in 1997 of House Bill 1815. It guaranteed that Southwestern Bell's rates would not be reviewed until 2001 in return for rate reductions and refunds for customers totaling $641 million. 

GTE spokesman Jeff Jones said the GTE agreement with the commission is "a normal part of doing business." 

"We expect these adjustments," he said. 

Commissioner Denise Bode said the $ 30 refund per access line is the kind of return ratepayers deserve. 

"As we move into the newly restructured telecommunications market, it remains important for our staff to ensure that ratepayers fully share in the benefits of that new market," she said. 

Besides Broken Arrow and southeast Tulsa, GTE serves residential and business customers in Coweta, Wagoner, Haskell, Hominy, Stroud, Prague and a dozen other communities. 

© 1999 The Tulsa World

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