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Phone Companies Say Reception For Regulator Unrelated To Proposed Fee

OLYMPIA, Wash. – You know all those fees and charges listed on your home or wireless phone bill? Well, rural telephone companies in Washington want to add one more: a state Universal Service Fee. Recently they co-sponsored a wine and beer reception for a key state regulator.

The reception took place November 13th in Baltimore, Maryland to celebrate Washington Utilities and Transportation Commissioner Phil Jones -- the new president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Jones is also a key backer of a proposal to impose a new Universal Service Fee on all phone lines in Washington to shore up rural phone providers.

Betty Buckley heads the trade group for these smaller phone companies and co-hosted the reception for Jones. But Buckley says this was not about currying favor for the new fee

“There’s no need for us to lobby commissioners on this issue.”

That’s because, says Buckley, the Utilities and Transportation Commission already plans to ask the legislature next year to establish the new fee.

But the fee is controversial. Wireless companies say their customers in Washington currently pay some of the highest fees and taxes in the nation.

For his part Commissioner Jones says the Universal Fee did not come up at the Baltimore reception.

“My policy is to talk to everybody and if somebody wants to open their door and try to bend my ear, that’s fine.”

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."