Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Case Nos. GNR-T-11-02 and GNR-T-11-03

May 5, 2011

Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712

 

Surcharge for telephone fund to increase slightly

 

A surcharge that helps to ensure low-income Idahoans, including many senior citizens, have access to local dial-tone service for medical and other emergencies, will increase by 1 cent per month for each business, residential and wireless phone line effective June 1.

 

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission agreed to increase the surcharge for the Idaho Telecommunications Service Assistance Program (ITSAP) from 6 cents per access line per month to 7 cents.

 

Those who qualify for ITSAP receive a monthly discount of $13.50 from their telephone bills. Program eligibility is determined by the state Department of Health and Welfare, although the Idaho Public Utilities Commission establishes the amount of surcharge necessary to fund the program. Revenues from the surcharge provide about 30 percent of the total discount low-income Idahoans receive while federal funds provide the rest. A state match is required to qualify for the federal funds.

 

During 2010, an average of 27,539 Idahoans per month qualified for ITSAP assistance. The surcharge to fund the program has been as high as 12 cents per line per month, but the number of wireline access lines continues to decline, with an 8 percent drop during 2010. The number of wireless access lines remained about the same during 2010, with just a 0.6 percent decline. While the number of ITSAP recipients is expected to remain constant, the decrease in the number of lines funding the program necessitated the 1-cent increase in the surcharge.

 

In a related case, the commission decided to leave at current levels the funding for the Idaho Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS), which assists hearing and speech impaired telecommunications users.

 

The TRS allows hearing and speech impaired citizens to use telephones via a relay center that converts oral conversation to text-type and vice versa. The service is funded by an assessment on residential and business lines of 2 cents per month and a charge of two-tenths of 1 cent per minute on intrastate long distance calls. 

 

Use of the service is declining due to advancing technology in Internet-based services and cell phone texting. During 2010, the relay center handled 70,995 minutes of traffic, a 24 percent decrease from 2009. The number of access lines to fund TRS was 531,190 in 2010, a decrease of about 57,850 lines from the previous year.

 

To reach the commission’s order or other documents related to these cases, go to www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on the telephone icon, then scroll down to “Open Telephone Cases,” and select GNR-T-11-03 for ITSAP and GNR-T-11-02 for TRS.