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Verizon, BellSouth Yield To FCC Pressure

By: David Utter

Both telecom companies rescinded fees they had planned to charge customers just as federally-mandated USF collections were being eliminated.

Verizon, BellSouth Yield To FCC Pressure When the Federal Communications Commission changed its definition of DSL Internet access to "information service," that also removed the requirement for carriers to collect a Universal Service Fund fee each month from customers.

However, Verizon (VZ) and BellSouth (BLS) planned to impose a replacement charge on customers that mirrored the USF fee. That charge would have been kept in-pocket by the two telecoms.

Outrage ensued, and the FCC took an interest. The agency sent letters of inquiry to both companies and expressed concerns about the new fees and how they stacked up with truth-in-billing laws.

BellSouth backed off under this pressure, dropping the $2.97 monthly fee it would have charged 3.2 million DSL customers each month.

Verizon made some noise publicly that it would resist efforts to make it drop its new charges. "We would have no comment on it other than to say obviously we will explain to them (the FCC) whatever it is they want to have explained," said Verizon spokesman Brian Blevins last week.

Instead of going toe-to-toe with the FCC, Verizon abruptly reversed direction. "We have listened to our customers," Bob Ingalls, chief marketing officer of Verizon Telecom, said in a statement, "and are eliminating this charge in response to their concerns."

Verizon and BellSouth customers who paid this new fee will receive a credit to their accounts for that payment.

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