MO: Intrastate access fee changes stuck in state senate

A move to reduce telephone access fees is currently hung up in the Missouri Legislature. The bill to reduce rates among local service providers such as AT&T, CenturyTel and Embarq ran into a Senate filibuster last week.

Senators against the bill to reduce Missouri's intrastate phone access fees believe that customers of AT&T and wireless providers would benefit at the expense of CenturyTel and Embarq.  

According to information from the Missouri Public Service Commission, AT&T charges $0.03 per minute to connect a Missouri customer served by another company to one of its AT&T Missouri customers, while CenturyTel and Embarq charge $0.09 cents per minute; smaller phone companies in the state charge up to 21 cents per minute.

Missouri's intrastate fees are among the highest in the nation and "considerably higher," says the AP, than a federally set rate of a half cent a minute charged by larger phone companies for calls made from one state to another.

The proposed legislation would have required Missouri's predominant local phone service providers - AT&T, CenturyTel, Embarq, and WindStream - to lower their intrastate access charges over five years to the rates already in place for interstate calls.

Missouri lawmakers are unlikely to work out a deal by the end of the current legislative session on May 15, but the debate may return in 2010.

For more:
- AP reports on Missouri phone rate tangles. Article.

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