MTA ballot seeks deregulation

Matanuska Telephone Association members are being asked to vote against Regulatory Commission of Alaska fees for local service during a special election this month. MTA serves Valley and Anchorage members. It is a non-profit, member-owned cooperative, and one of only two telephone cooperatives in the state which are still operating under RCA local controls, according to MTA CEO Michael Burke.

“What we are referring to, is what’s called the Regulatory Cost Charge. And if you look at your local phone bill, you will see a line item that says Regulatory Cost Charge or RCC charge, and that is an amount of money that we collect from our customers each month on our bill, and then we turn around and remit that money to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.”

Burke says the fee is small, around a dollar a month or less, but the 28 thousand members of MTA pay it every month, and that adds up. He says MTA’s board wants to exempt local telephone services from the RCA fees to save an estimated $150,000 to $175,000 in member’s costs annually. Additional costs related to RCA tariff filings by MTA staff cost the phone company about $75,000 a year. He says MTA members will be only slightly affected if the ballot is approved.

“And that’s really the main impact that most customers will see, they will just see that line item going away and their bill will be a little bit less every month. We will be able to streamline our processes in terms of not have to go through all these filings we have to make that are not doing anybody any good. ”

MTA is already exempt from RCA regulations for digital television, wireless telephone and internet services.

Rodney Crum, RCA’s consumer protection and information officer, says the cooperative has asked for the deregulation, and RCA will count the ballots. Half the ballots have been sent out already and the other half will be sent out in March. MTA members have 30 days to respond. Crum says  at least fifteen percent of the ballots must be returned to be counted, if not, the regulation stays.