NORTH FORK — Residents who have their phone and internet service through Ponderosa are urged to attend a meeting on Monday, Mar. 27, at 5:30 p.m. in North Fork to voice their opinion about a proposed rate increase.
In October 2016, Ponderosa filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requesting a review of its intrastate revenue requirement and rate design, as required by law. The proposed increase for a basic residential line was from $20.25/mo to $23.00/mo.
However, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA), an independent consumer advocate within the CPUC, has proposed the basic residential rate be set at $24 for 2018, $25 in 2019, and $26 in 2020 — a 28 percent increase, and more than double what Ponderosa had requested.
The ORA also proposed reductions in Ponderosa’s investments and operating expenses, which the company says would “make it difficult for Ponderosa to operate and invest in its network.”
Ponderosa receives subsidies from the State as part of the California High Cost Fund-A (CHCF-A), a universal service program which gives monetary support for providing telephone service to customers living in high-cost rural areas. The ORA’s review of Ponderosa’s application questions whether the company complies with applicable state law governing CHCF-A, and wants them to raise rates and reduce investment.
In a recent letter to Ponderosa customers, General Manager Matt Boos said he “strongly urges community residents such as yourself to consider the impact of rising telecommunication service rates along with limited ability for Ponderosa to continue to invest in its telecommunication network infrastructure. Of course, we believe it will adversely affect our community and could put at risk the availability and quality of voice and broadband services.”
Ponderosa Marketing Communications Associate Cheryl McQuone says the company has not increased rates since 2009, and while moderate rate increases are necessary from time to time to keep up with rising operating expenses, Ponderosa opposes this sharp rate hike, and asks the public to attend this meeting to voice their objections.
According to published CPUC procedures, “A CPUC Administrative Law Judge will be presiding at this Public Participation Hearing (PPH) to listen to concerns, comments, and opinions on the application. One or more Commissioners may attend, but no decisions will be reached at this hearing. In addition, representatives of Ponderosa and ORA will attend the PPH and be available to answer any questions.
“All public comments from this PPH will be included in the formal record of this proceeding and become public record. After considering all proposals and all evidence presented during the formal process, the assigned Judge will issue a proposed decision determining whether to adopt Ponderosa’s request, modify it, or deny it.”
For those who cannot attend, they can have their voices heard by writing or calling the CPUC.
CPUC Public Advisor’s Office
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 1 (866) 849-8390 (toll free) or 1 (415) 703-2074
1 (866) 836-7825 (toll free) or TTY 1 (415) 703-5282
Please reference “The Ponderosa Telephone Co., Application No. 16-10-001” in any communications you have with the Commission regarding this matter.
All public comments will become part of the public correspondence file for this proceeding and made available for review by the assigned Judge, the Commissioners, and appropriate CPUC staff.