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$41.38 Flat Rate Approved for GTE in Texas, May be lowered in future

  forwarded note from Gene Crick regarding Texas GTE tariff decision.
  ($41.38 flat rate, may be lowered more).. jamie
  Date: Wed, 3 Jul 1996 01:27:13 -0500 (CDT)
  From: Gene Crick <gcrick@onr.com>
  To: Tx Telecom Jrnl Subscribers <gcrick@onr.com>
  Subject: GTE loses ISDN tariff - Tx Telecom Jrnl
    TTJ is a digest of news/analysis for telecommunications professionals.
    All Copyright (1996) retained by the Texas Telecommunications Journal.
    Re-posting is allowed where appropriate, if full attribution included.
    EXCERPTS from: Texas Telecommunications Journal, 26 June, 1996
    PUC blasts GTE on ISDN case
                         WELCOME TO LITTLE BIG HORN!
    For Oscar Gomez, things won't get much worse than the day he had today.
    As GTE Southwest's Vice-President for Regulatory & Government Affairs,
    he heard the PUC set GTE's single-line ISDN rates at a fraction of their
    requests.  And he represented the company, receiving a strong reprimand.
    We all knew today would be tough for GTE; Judge Morton's ruling made that
    inevitable (TTJ 6/13/96)... the record low $41.38 flat rate ISDN was more
    or less a foregone conclusion.  But the Commissioners apparently are also
    fed up with GTE's attitude and conduct in this (and some other) matters.
    They're so angry that GTE, perhaps the country's largest local exchange
    telco, may be facing precedent-setting Administrative Sanction penalties.
    Simply put, all three commissioners agreed with Judge Morton's findings,
    praising them as exemplary technically and for resolving complex issues.
    Morton ruled GTE failed to offer credible evidence in this case and did
    not make genuine efforts to comply with required ISDN service standards.
    A few combined views of GTE from three unhappy utility commissioners:
      "Profoundly disturbing" (conduct) and "appalling lack of proof" make
       the PUC wonder if the regulated companies "take them seriously" or "if
       GTE feels it necessary to comply with PUC" and state regulations.
      "Feeble and wholly unconvincing" arguments from GTE led to this sternly
        directed verdict as "a signal that certain conduct is inexcusable."
      Describing GTE actions as "shocking" commissioners speculated about the
       current state of GTE management and quality of representation and how
       their unpreparedness "hurt" the telco "at the PUC and in the market."
    Wow! Though not the first, this was the toughest dressing-down I've heard
    from this commission. Clearly, performance in docket #15042 was only the
    straw that broke the carrier's back.  The commission widened queries to
    GTE's record in other areas like NI compliance and full ISDN deployment.
    Fuel for this harsh criticism may also come from last week's report of
    complaints against phone companies.  In 9 months of FY 1996, GTE had far
    more complaints than any other Texas telco.  Per 1,000 access lines:
       Complaint Category            SWB       GTE   all other  statewide
       -------------------         ------    ------    ------    ------
       Quality of service          0.0108    0.0785    0.0181    0.0205
       Billing                     0.0216    0.0470    0.0215    0.0250
       Customer service            0.0127    0.0337    0.0170    0.0159
       Credit/Deposit              0.0091    0.0125    0.0124    0.0098
       Other complaints            0.0148    0.0521    0.0351    0.0215
                                   ------    ------    ------    ------
       Total                       0.0690    0.2238    0.1040    0.0928
       1996 complaint percentage    .007%     .022%     .010%     .009%
       Nor has GTE's record in previous years been impressive:
    1995 complaint percentage    .008%     .026%     .008%     .010%
    1994 complaint percentage    .009%     .020%     .008%     .010%
    GTE RESPONDS - With prudent restraint VP Gomez staunchly endured all this
    criticism of his company, stating he "really doesn't have an explanation;
    evidently those responsible were not ready."  No dodging, no whining.
    After the vote he told me simply, "Everybody thought they were doing
    their jobs; obviously they weren't. We'll just have to do a better job."
    Mr. Gomez is well respected by the PUC and industry; he represented his
    company well after being placed in an impossible situation. And nobody
    seriously disputes that GTE is a good company, offering solid telephone
    service to their many markets in Texas.  But lessons don't get clearer
    than today's reaction from the PUC: GTE would be wise to place a priority
    on improving relations with Texas regulators and consumers alike.  The
    replacement selected for recently departed President Kathy Harless may be
    only part of a larger change as GTE belatedly adjusts to the rapidly
    changing nature of telecommunications in Texas, especially at the PUC.
                   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
    BOTTOM LINES:  The commission approved (3-0) the low $41.38 flat rate as
    its Interim Rate for BRI and remanded this case for future review.  This
    means GTE ISDN rates will be lower than Bell, at least for some months.
    GTE multi-line ISDN is unchanged; PRI was not included in this docket.
    Citing lack of diligence in upgrading ISDN switches, PUC ordered some
    rural service to be provided by FX arrangement - with no extra charges.
    If lower (ultimate) rates are approved, customers receive refunds. But
    it rates go higher, there will be no surcharge to recover lower rates.
    Long term GTE contracts may be a good ISDN investment.  Even if rates
    ultimately go up, the contract life at lower rates should be honored.
    AND the commission ordered this docket to go forward under Judge Morton's
    guidance, gathering facts toward possible sanction hearings under the new
    Administrative Sanction provisions passed by the last Legislature.  They
    began today (in a later PUC docket item) considering the timely topic of
    sanctions: range, appropriateness and availability under the current law.
    Whether or not penalties are ultimately imposed upon GTE, the commission
    explicitly vows to "send a message to parties about inexcusable conduct."
                 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
    From the Gallery:
    One wry note of today's bloodbath was watching reps of SW Bell.  Having
    recently spent their own turn in the barrel (over area code issues) each
    Bell face wore a determinedly neutral "this is not a grin" expression.
    And there appears to be no truth to rumors GTE will hire Johnny Cochrane
    for future docket hearings.
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