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 TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern Bell and Florida's Office of Public Counsel today announced that they have reached a settlement of the rate case that was filed by Southern Bell in July 1992. The settlement, which has been endorsed by the Florida Attorney General as well as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN), must still be approved by the Florida Public Service Commission before it goes into effect.
 The agreement calls for approximately $300 million worth of rate cuts, to be phased in over the next three years. Under its terms, Southern Bell's customers in Florida will no longer have a $1.00 per line per month TouchTone charge. This change will take effect 30 days after the FPSC approves the agreement.
 Southern Bell has also agreed to cap basic residential lines, basic business lines, PBX trunk, and Directory Assistance charges at their current levels, through 1997. Southern Bell has also withdrawn its optional expanded local service proposal, and has agreed not to propose any local measured service request on a statewide basis through the same time period. Additionally, both the company and the Public Counsel have agreed to ask the FPSC to resolve the Dade/Broward toll situation.
 The agreement also establishes a Service Guarantee plan, beginning late in 1994, that would provide rebates to customers, if it is determined that installation or maintenance services were unsatisfactory.
 "Florida's Public Counsel, Jack Shreve, was an extremely effective advocate for this state's consumers," said Joe Lacher, president of Southern Bell-Florida. "Mr. Shreve's professionalism and spirit of cooperation were invaluable in reaching an agreement that's good for everyone."
 Lacher also acknowledged the efforts of other parties to resolve the case. "The Attorney General as well as the AARP and FCAN worked very diligently on this case from the beginning. All these parties, including Southern Bell, have done what they believed to be in the best interests of Florida's consumers. While the process has been cumbersome and complex, our collective efforts have produced a proposed settlement beneficial to everyone. With this case behind us, Southern Bell's energies can now be fully focused on serving our customers and participating in the evolving nature of our industry for the future, and that is good for everyone."
 Lacher said the agreement reflects the realities of a swiftly moving world. "Rapidly changing customer expectations, technology and competition are changing the face of our business, and the face of regulation will have to change to meet those demands," he said.
 "While this settlement is not what either side had originally proposed, it allows us to concentrate on our customers and the future by removing uncertainty, and allowing us to better plan for the changes that an increasingly competitive environment is bringing," Lacher added. "Regardless of how the marketplace, or the world of telecommunications regulation changes, our customers are guaranteed the rate reductions specified in this settlement. Also, local rates shall be capped through 1997 and that, too, is good for our customers. The settlement also creates a regulatory structure that provides us an opportunity to improve our earnings and that is good for our shareholders," he said.
 -0- 1/5/94
 /CONTACT: Wendie Feinberg of Southern Bell, 904-222-9380 or 800-946-4645, PIN 1090280/

CO: Southern Bell; Florida's Office of Public Counsel; Florida Public
 Service Commission ST: Florida IN: UTI SU:

AW-JB -- FL010 -- 9317 01/05/94 11:46 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 5, 1994

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