The Federal Communications Commission is expected to ratify a plan today to impose a charge on residential telephone users of $1 a month to help support local phone service.
Under the plan, which was developed by a panel of FCC members and state regulators, consumers and single-line businesses would pay the monthly "access charge," which would rise to $2 in 1986, to pay for access to the long-distance network. The agency also is expected to issue a report today emphasizing the need for the charges to prevent "bypassing" of the phone network by big customers, which would cost local phone companies substantial revenue and force rates even higher.
The access charge plan was devised after the FCC's original proposal of a higher fee came under fire by congressmen who said rising phone rates could threaten universal telephone service. Several congressmen told FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler last week that the new fee schedule does not eliminate that threat, and said they may "feel compelled to address this issue legislatively."
The FCC is also expected to release a report today saying that "there has been no impact on universal [telephone] service from recent FCC decisions," according to an official who asked not to be identified. But the report will promise FCC monitoring of telephone rates nationwide.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Federation of America will release a study today saying 2 million consumers will go without a telephone by mid-1985 because of spiraling residential rates.
According to the study, $2 billion in local telephone rate increases since the breakup of the Bell System last Jan. 1 will force an additional 750,000 households, or 2 million people, to either give up a phone or abandon plans to acquire one.
The federation report also said a $2-a-month residential access charge will force "over a million more people to give up phone service."
The FCC report on bypassing reportedly will warn that large businesses will continue to bypass the local telephone network by building their own telephone facilities to avoid access charges paid by long-distance companies and passed on to the business users.
An FCC official said the report will show "one of the biggest bypass threats is American Telephone & Telegraph Co.," which can hook up its lines directly to large business facilities to provide long-distance service, bypassing the local telephone network. The report will say the most prevalent form of bypass occurs when large businesses lease private lines from the local telephone company but hook them up to long-distance facilities directly, thus avoiding local per-minute charges, the official said.