Telephone surcharge to decline May 1
For the second year, a surcharge on residential, business and wireless phone lines to fund a telephone assistance program for low-income Idahoans is being reduced.
The assessment, currently at 7 cents per line per month, will decrease to 6 cents effective May 1. Last year the assessment was reduced from 12 cents to 7 cents per line per month.
Revenue from the surcharge is used to fund the Idaho Telecommunications Service Assistance Program, or ITSAP, which in 2005 helped nearly 33,000 low-income Idahoans pay for basic local telephone service.
ITSAP helps to ensure that low-income Idahoans, including many senior citizens, have access to local dial-tone service for medical and other emergencies. ITSAP discounts $13.50 per month for those who qualify. Program eligibility is determined by the state Department of Health and Welfare, although the Idaho Public Utilities Commission establishes the amount of the state’s portion of the surcharge. A state match of about 30 percent is required to qualify for the federal funds.
Those qualifying for assistance increased by 6 percent during 2005 and administrative costs increased by 4 percent. But the growth in the number of wireless owners who contribute to the fund more than offsets the increase in disbursements. Wireless access lines increased nearly 21 percent to 775,000 during 2005, resulting in an overall increase of 115,200 lines subject to the surcharge. The total number of lines subject to the surcharge is about 1,437,200.
An annual report filed with the commission estimates the Idaho portion of the funding requirement for 2006 will be about $1,635,800. The report anticipates the number of ITSAP recipients will increase by 6 percent and administrative costs by 5 percent during 2006. However, the growth in access lines will allow the commission to decrease the surcharge and still allow for a positive fund balance at the end of the year, the report states.
A copy of the commission’s order is available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room,” then on “Recent Orders and Notices,” and scroll down to Order No. 30002, Case No. GNR-T-06-02.