Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. yesterday proposed a new rate structure to implement a $27.5 million rate increase authorized earlier this month by the D.C. Public Service Commission.
C&P's proposal would mean higher rates for most classes of users, with some paying more than twice what they do now.
Web Chamberlin, spokesman for C&P, said that 60 percent of the expected $27.5 million in new revenue, or $16.7 million, would come from residential customers, the rest from business and government users.
An additional $3.5 million increase approved by the PSC will be added on Jan. 1 as a 1.5 percent across-the-board monthly surcharge on rates for all classes of users in the District except coin phones and Centrex service, Chamberlin said.
The plan submitted yesterday would increase the rate for regular D.C. service, which is used by about 43 percent of C&P's residential customers, from $6.38 to $12.57 a month, while the "economy" service, used by another 2 percent of the company's residential customers, would jump from $3.11 to $7.
An "Economy II" service for low-income senior citizens -- a form of "lifeline service" -- would be created on an experimental basis, providing 30 calls a month for $4.00.
The flat rate allowing an unlimited number of areawide calls would increase from $12.49 to $14.56, and the "message rate" -- providing a limited number of calls -- would go from $6.80 to $10.
The installation charge would rise from $25 to $37.50.
C&P's plan also would reduce the number of free calls to directory assistance from 10 to five a month, and would raise the fee per call in excess of that number from 20 to 25 cents.
"Approximately 75 percent of our residential customers do not make more than five directory assistance calls per month, so they will experience no additional expense as a result of this change," C&P Vice President Delano Lewis said.
C&P said it also would implement slight increases in charges for call-waiting, call-forwarding and conference-call services.
For business, the basic "message rate" would be reduced from $16.05 to $10.91, but users no longer would be entitled to 110 free calls a month.
PSC hearings on the C&P rate structure are scheduled for October, Chamberlin said.
C&P was told it could raise its rates after arguing that it needed the revenue because basic rates no longer are subsidized by long-distance and equipment income following the breakup of the Bell System, because competition is taking some business away and because of rising costs. The company also said it was earning a rate of return below its authorized 12.25 percent.
"The rate design which we have submitted to the PSC today represents a good compromise between the company's needs for higher revenues and our customers' concerns about higher rates," Lewis said.
"This rate design enables us to continue our commitment to universal telephone service while at the same time moving our rates closer to our actual costs," he said.
"They've abandoned universal and affordable phone service," said Mark Plotkin, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B and a longtime opponent of phone rate increases. "C&P phone company wants a phone in every car, not necessarily a phone in every home."
Suzanne Crowell of the D.C. People's Counsel said her office could not comment on the C&P plan because officials had not examined it. But she said the People's Counsel will submit a proposed rate structure that places the burden of the $31 million increase on businesses rather than residents.