Oklahomans starting to see increase on phone bills

OKLAHOMA CITY - "It's quite frankly an emergency situation, because people are not going to stand for these increases," said Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony.

Oklahomans' phone bills are going up.

"They said something about tax increase in Oklahoma; I didn't understand it," said Oklahoma City resident Raymond Oliver.

Anthony said telephone, landline or mobile are starting to notice a 400 percent to 500 percent increase on a section of their bill labeled 'The Oklahoma Universal Service Fund.'

If you're an AT&T customer, you used to pay $0.75 for the fee; now, you're going to be paying around $4 per line per month.

So, where's all the money going?

"Some of it is going for schools, and libraries, and hospitals, and rural communities and low income people, but the big increase is going to subsidies to phone companies and to their owners," Anthony said.

Anthony said the cost of the OUSF to Oklahoma phone customers has now reached $53 million annually.

The commissioner said the federal government is cutting back on the fund, supporting more things like internet and broadband services.

A state law (17 O.S. Sec. 139.106(K)) said, if there are cut backs, the consumer picks up the slack. The program will be fully funded by extra fees on your phone bills.

"The cut back in the federal program is being charged to the residential rate payers," Anthony said.

The commissioner said he started asking questions to phone companies years ago, trying to get to the bottom of where all the money is being spent.

It went into effect July 1.

One week ago, officials learned the fund has been completely depleted, leaving everyone with a phone forced to make up the difference.

"The sad things is, with this huge increase, that's gonna cost families 40 or 50 dollars a year," Anthony said.

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