Friday, May 27, 2005

Sprint wants to add 93 cents to customer bills for hurricane costs

Source: AP Newswire

Sprint wants to charge its 2 million Florida customers an extra 93 cents a month each to pay for damage from last year's unprecedented four hurricanes.

Sprint filed a petition this week with the Public Service Commission, asking to put the charge on bills over the next two years to collect more than $30 million _ a fraction of the $148 million the company says it lost when its lines and facilities were damaged by Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. It's the first phone company in Florida to seek to recover costs incurred because of last year's hurricanes.

``This combined event was uncontemplated in the business operations of Sprint,'' the company said in its petition. ``As far as Sprint is aware, no utility has ever been struck by four storms of this magnitude in a single season in a single state.''

Sprint has about 1.4 million residential and single-line business customers and another 600,000 business customers with more complex services.

Sprint, which has service around the state including Port Charlotte, Naples and Fort Myers in southwest Florida, Winter Park and Ocala in central Florida and Fort Walton Beach in the Panhandle, was affected by all four storms.

Charley was first, hitting southwest and central Florida in August of last year, followed quickly by Frances and Ivan and ending with Jeanne in late September.

Sprint said hundreds of thousands of its customers lost service during the storms and that it sustained millions of dollars of damage to its facilities and that its current rate structure doesn't have hurricane cost recovery built in.

The Office of Public Counsel, the Legislature's consumer advocate, will have a chance to argue before the PSC on the matter. It's not clear yet when the commissioners will hear the case and make a decision, although it won't be before July 1.

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