FCC orders ACS to repay $1 million overcharges

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska Communications Systems Inc. overcharged competing phone companies for access to its phone lines and must repay about $1 million, according to a recent order from the Federal Communications Commission.

The ruling is the latest shot in the bitter contest between ACS, the state's largest local phone company, and General Communication Inc. Both are based in Anchorage.

According to the FCC ruling, ACS had set ''unreasonable and unjust'' interstate access rates, resulting in overcharges to GCI and another phone company, AT&T. Much of the ruling had to do with Internet-related calling.

GCI and AT&T complained about those rates, leading to the FCC ruling.

GCI spokesman David Morris said a total refund of about $1 million is due under the ruling, with GCI to receive most of the money.

Mary Ann Pease, vice president at ACS, agreed that the amount owed is about $1 million. However, she said, the repayment order would be appealed through lawsuits pending in various courts. She said the issue basically came down to a technical question of how interstate rates should be classified.

In any case, Pease said, the refund would not result in higher phone bills for ACS residential and business customers. She said the company had already set aside the money.

''It's really not a big deal. It has no impact on customers. It's money that we've already reserved,'' Pease said. ''The real question is what is going to happen to GCI customers? Are they going to get a rebate?''

No, they won't, Morris said. GCI as a company ''was eating'' the overcharges, so GCI customers weren't being charged more and thus won't be receiving a credit once ACS pays back the money, he said.

Regulators consider ACS the ''dominant'' local phone company in the area. GCI and AT&T pay fees to ACS to carry their customers' long-distance calls to and from local homes and businesses.

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