Edmondson, SWB Reach Agreement on $30 Million Education Technology Fund

Article excerpt

Attorney Gen. Drew Edmondson and Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. announced Tuesday that they have reached an agreement on establishment of a $30 million education technology fund.

The fund is one of the commitments Bell made as part of the transition from earnings-based to price-based regulation by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The regulatory panel approved an alternative regulation plan in October.

Other aspects of the transition plan are still under negotiation.

The new plan maintains commission approval of prices and caps basic local residential telephone service rates for five years.

The commission must approve a transition plan before Bell can opt into the new regulatory scheme.

Initially, the company proposed a $5 million school technology fund, but the final agreement was for $30 million. This is the same amount that Bell agreed to as part of a rate-case settlement in 1995, but only $2 million of that fund was ever tapped. That settlement was originally estimated at $639 million, but low customer usage of phone cards and discounted services cut the actual total to about $412 million.

Corporation commissioners will conduct a hearing on Bell's transition plan on Nov. 29, with a final vote set for Dec. …