Tuesday, December 28, 2004
State losing out on phone funds: "WASHINGTON - Since 1996, consumers in Arizona have been paying millions of dollars in long-distance phone surcharges that were supposed to help pay for better phone service in rural communities. But like 39 other states, Arizona has gotten nothing in return. Instead, a flaw in the federal formula for redistributing the money as subsidies to telephone companies that serve rural areas has resulted in the money being sent to just 10 states. A coalition of state utility commissioners and consumer and trade groups says it wants Congress to fix the formula in its session starting next month to realign the way the money is disbursed into a fairer, more targeted way. They say that such a move could bring Arizona between $4 million and $10 million a year. "The current rules for this program are extremely unfair to Arizona and the 40 states in all who should be getting their fair share of support for isolated communities but are not," said Dale Curtis, a spokesman for the 80-member Coalition for Equitable and Affordable Rural Service."