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Phone legislation deals with an old rate problem

Re: Dear Senate: The people will know if you raise telephone rates, by Howard Troxler, March 20.

This column was simply a play to the public that "nobody wants to pay more for anything." Wow, what a revelation!

Fact: Local residential rates have never come close to covering their costs. Business and long distance rates are priced above their costs to make up the difference. Example: The one-party residential monthly rate in St. Petersburg in 1956 was around $7 per month. Currently that same rate is $12 per month, a $5 increase in 46 years. I wonder what's happened to newspaper advertising rates in that time period!

Fact: The FCC and Congress and the state Public Service Commission have known about cross- subsidizing since the beginning of deregulation in the 1970s and their answer was to put charges like universal service, state line charge, life line, etc., on your bill. Those are the confusing items on the monthly bill that everybody complains about. In reality, the customers have really been paying some of the subsidy for years. In addition to these monthly charges, the long distance companies have to pay a subsidy to the local telephone company which they pass on to the customer in their long distance rates.

Fact: Everybody thinks competition is great until the people who were being subsidized (residential users) are asked to pay their real cost. Example: Deregulation of the airlines produced lower rates if you lived in or near a large city, but the people who lived in the hinterlands either lost their air service or the costs of a ticket skyrocketed. Under deregulation, nobody wants to serve the high-cost customer. If true costs were applied to small and rural customers, the basic residential bill would probably be in the $50 or $60 per month range.

This problem has been sitting at the state level since the 1970s and finally the Legislature has done something about it, but the governor and the elected officials are trying to find a way to correct the problem and not take the political heat for increasing everybody's monthly telephone rate.

Stop blaming the companies and put the blame on the FCC and Congress where it belongs.

Jim Harpham, Palm Harbor

Phone bill and fuzzy math

Re: Phone rates bill in Bush's hands, March 22.

Only "fuzzy math" can justify the signature of Gov. Jeb Bush, on the bill to increase our phone rates. It does not make good sense to increase the cost of our basic monthly phone bill, with the hope that more competition will result and therefore lower the rates. Please excuse me for being skeptical, but I would like to know who is going to guarantee that long our distance phone rates will decrease as a result of this measure. Will we get a refund if all does not work out as planned?

The logic behind this controversial bill is totally asinine. Gov. Jeb Bush's older brother, President George W. Bush, flippantly used the phrase, "fuzzy math," during election 2000. It appears to me that much of this fuzzy business is all in the family.

JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater

Savings seem questionable

Re: Phone rates.

The supporters of the bill that will raise local phone rates say that long distance rates will be able to come down, so the net effect won't be that bad. Well, I pay 4 cents a minute for most of my long distance calls and pay no monthly fee. I can guarantee you that my long distance bill won't nearly offset any increase _ there's just not enough there.

And what about those people that make most of their long distance calls with their cell phones because long distance is free?

Ernest Lane, Trinity

Professors group shows bias

Would the American Association of University Professors be on the side of a right-wing professor who espoused ideas against gays or abortion and who raised funds for those groups? Do we want our university professors teaching hate against the United States and associating and raising funds for terrorist groups? Previously the AAUP suggested that if University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft made decisions based on politics she would hurt her school and ruin her career.

I did not hear a single word from this group when the president of Harvard succumbed to the pressure of black activist groups after he was honest enough to address some bogus academic classes and inflated grades. That is political, and these professors only believe in their kind of free speech, much the way it is on too many university campuses.

M. McPike, Clearwater

Sounds like blackmail

Re: Al-Arian case is weighed by peers, March 16.

Did the representatives of the American Association of University Professors truly not ask Sami Al-Arian about his political views or his alleged ties to terrorists. Will they refuse to understand that the facts (not just allegations) are that he made inflammatory and racist pronouncements and that his think tank harbored at least one individual who later became known as an avowed terrorist? Dare a taxpayer expect that the efforts of tenured professors will bring praise rather than notoriety to the state university which they choose to serve.

Finally, I note that the only substantial reason that the AAUP can give for retaining Al-Arian at USF is that if he is not retained the group may apply censure in an attempt to injure the university. That sounds a lot like blackmail to me.

Palmer O. Hanson Jr., Largo

Saeed should not be extradited

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh should not be extradited to the United States for the murder of Daniel Pearl. He is a foreign national, and the crime was committed on foreign soil. Who are we to think that we have the right to extradite him? And for that matter, why single him out? Are we now to extradite the perpetrators of any crime committed against any American citizen anywhere?

And why all the furor over the murder of Daniel Pearl? A number of other journalists, some of them American journalists, have also died while covering the war in Afghanistan. If we are to attempt to extradite Omar Saeed Sheikh then should we not also attempt to find and extradite those who killed the other American journalists? Or is Daniel Pearl different because he worked for the Wall Street Journal? I wonder how different the reaction would have been if he had worked for, say, the St. Petersburg Times? Would it have even made national headlines? I wager not.

The murder of Daniel Pearl was committed by a foreign national on Pakistani soil. He is now in the custody of Pakistani officials, and the case should be tried in Pakistani courts, and the sentence meted out in Pakistani prisons. Even though Daniel Pearl was a U.S. citizen, and a well known reporter for a well respected newspaper, the U.S. government has no business interfering with the Pakistani judicial system.

Alan S. Petrillo, St. Petersburg

Problems at the DMV

Re: Hijacker visas rile tempers, March 14.

This week my daughter went to take her driving test at the Department of Motor Vehicles on 34th Street S in St. Petersburg. When she arrived at the front desk and was put into the computer she was told that she already had her license. Oops! That was deleted quickly.

She then took her test and was so happy that she passed. She then went to complete her paperwork and was told that, "She was not registered as a United States citizen nor a Florida resident." Mind you this child has been driving for a year on a learner's permit that was issued from the Department of Motor Vehicles last March with all documents completed. My husband had to drive home and retrieve her Social Security card and original birth certificate before she was issued her license.

On a much smaller scale, I am equally "stunned" with my daughter's experience with the Department of Motor Vehicles as President Bush is with the INS. Maybe after the INS is investigated the Department of Motor Vehicles should be next.

Charlotte Fazio, St. Petersburg

The good works of religion

Re: The wonders of religion, letter, March 9.

This letter lists five stories of religious conflict found in one issue of the Times. The letter writer ends with a cynical comment: "All in one day. Isn't religion wonderful?" Characteristically, bad stuff about religion makes the news as does crime.

On that day, had all the good news about religion around the world been printed, the Times would have become a monster paper in size. It would have included the medical work of missionary Ben Mathes' "Rivers of the World" project treating blindness and other diseases in Africa, the Amazon jungles and Southeast Asia; the several hundred refugee Afghan women in Pakistan paid by Church World Service to make blankets from contributed materials for distribution in Afghanistan; CWS emergency assistance to victims of floods, famines, earthquakes around the world as well as in our own country; and volunteers from churches across this country visiting lonely people in nursing homes. On and on the stories would go including shelters for the homeless, a giving a new start for people down and out, and running food pantries in our own community.

Gordon Hagberg, St. Petersburg

Important news

Re: Massive ice shelf collapses, March 20.

I was just wondering why something of such significance as the news that the antarctic ice shelf breaking apart after more than a thousand years does not reach the front page of the newspaper. From my observation, most people pay little or no attention to these kinds of environmental issues, and the reason may be that local news tends to stuff such items under the rug.

This news was extremely important, and all should know about and be educated on its affects. With your help people who tend to think only as far as their own backyard might just stretch their minds a little further. And maybe this awareness might start a new trend toward the everyday person becoming environmentally conscious.

Gloria Petrey, St. Petersburg

Innocence and curiosity

Kudos to John Pendygraft for his superb photograph of the baby orangutan contemplating a wildflower in the March 20 paper. Pendygraft caught a moment of pure innocence and curiosity, traits that are common but, too often, ephemeral among those of us who share membership in the suborder Anthropoidea.

Spring's gentle magic nudges our memories of those past days of discoveries and simple pleasures. And like our less privileged cousins, we feel the urge to spend a spring morning "picking flowers and rolling in the fields."

Joe Dunlap, Clearwater

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