New Year to ring in phone bill hike

Claro's landline and wireless customers could pay more for the service starting early next year.

Puerto Rico Telephone, which does business as Claro, announced Friday that if the increase in Universal Service Fund charges that the Federal Communications Commission is pushing for is approved, landline and wireless customers will see an increase in their bill starting the first quarter of 2012.

The FCC is proposing increasing the formula used to calculate USF carrier contributions to 17.9 percent, from the current 15.3 percent, the highest hike on record since the fund was established.

The FCC reviews the USF formula every three months. Carriers contributing to that fund — which finances subsidies and telecom services to low-income areas, schools and libraries — pass off the charges to customers through the monthly bill.

In dollars and cents, if the hike were approved, Claro’s residential customers would have to multiply the $6.50 they pay monthly per phone line by the new percentage, which comes out to an additional $1.16 per line, per month. Customers pay about .99 cents a month per line at present.

Meanwhile, business customers would have to apply the same calculation to the $9.20 charge per multi-line switch and to the special services that Claro offers, such as dedicated high-speed infrastructure.

Wireless customers are also subject to the surcharge, and the amount will vary according to their service plan.

The agency has justified the proposed increase by saying that it will use the funding to boost broadband deployment and use throughout the U.S. mainland and its jurisdictions.

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