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PENNSYLVANIA OFFICE OF CONSUMER ADVOCATE: PHONE COMPANY RATE REDUCTIONS

 HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumer Advocate Irwin A. Popowsky today announced that two Pennsylvania telephone companies have voluntarily agreed to reduce their telephone rates by more than $1.2 million per year from their current levels.
 In settlement documents filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the two companies, ALLTEL Pennsylvania Inc. and Murraysville Telephone Company, agreed to annual rate reductions of $945,914, and $290,413, respectively. The proposed rate decreases must be reviewed and approved by the PUC before they can go into effect.
 The rate reductions arise from an investigation by the PUC into possible excessive earnings by these and six other Pennsylvania utilities. A third company, the Canton Telephone Company previously had reduced its rates by $49,000, to resolve the investigation into that company's rates.
 According to Popowsky, the PUC rate investigations were initiated in response to a petition filed by his Office and the Office of Small Business Advocate, which contended that a number of utilities had raised their rates unnecessarily to recover costs related to increases in certain state taxes. The OCA argued at that time that some utilities already were charging rates which were producing excessive monopoly profits and that the rate increases in the companies' "state tax adjustment surcharge" were unnecessary. The proposed settlements with ALLTEL and Murraysville would eliminate the effect of the state tax surcharge increase and return the rates to their former level. The prior Canton settlement, which was approved by the PUC in December, had the same effect.
 Popowsky noted that this is the second voluntary rate reduction by ALLTEL in the last two years. In March 1991, the PUC approved a $4.7 million reduction in ALLTEL's rates in response to the OCA's contention that ALLTEL's rates were producing excessive profits. Other recent telephone rate reductions included a November 1991 reduction of $1.45 million by North Pittsburgh Telephone Company and a $363,000 rate cut by Conestoga Telephone Company approved by the PUC in 1990.
 "These cases demonstrate that utility rates -- and particularly telephone rates -- can go down as well as up," Popowsky stated. "As the telephone network expands and technology advances, it is possible to get improved telecommunications service at the same, or in some cases even lower, rates."
 Popowsky commended ALLTEL and Murraysville for voluntarily agreeing to reduce their rates at this time so that some of the benefits of their increased earnings can be passed on to customers.
 ALLTEL serves about 140,000 customers in 21 counties in central and western Pennsylvania. Murrarysville serves 28,000 customers in Westmoreland and Cambria counties.
 /delval/
 -0- 2/5/93
 /CONTACT: Susan Henry, consumer liaison, Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, 717-783-5048/


CO: Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate; ALLTEL Pennsylvania Inc.;
 Murraysville Telephone Company ST: Pennsylvania IN: TLS SU:


CD -- PG008 -- 3448 02/05/93 10:23 EST
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Date:Feb 5, 1993
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