SAN FRANCISCO — A state hearing officer said Wednesday that Pacific Bell should be denied the $445-million rate increase it seeks for next year and should instead lower its rates by $86.4 million.
The proposal, if adopted next month by the state Public Utilities Commission and spread equally among all ratepayers, would lower the average customer's monthly telephone bill by about 40 cents, said Gerry Thayer of the PUC staff.
But the commission will take a different type of action on rates. After ruling on the latest recommendation, it will combine the figure with two rate decreases it has ordered over the past 20 months--totaling $311 million--and then set different rates for various types of services, effective next year.
The commission is scheduled to rule next month on Pacific Bell's general rate case, which is filed every three years and requires consideration of all operations, costs and revenue needs. The company has 9 million customers.
The hearing officer, Administrative Law Judge Lynn Carew, issued a detailed decision that would require Pacific Bell to share more of its tax savings with customers, offer additional refunds for sales practices that the PUC has found abusive, and spend $16.5 million over five years to educate customers about their choices of phone services and charges.