- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahomans will see fee increases of about 30 cents on their phone bills to help pay for Internet in schools.

The state’s corporation commission approved the increase Thursday for the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund, which also helps provide online access for hospitals and libraries. Phone companies pay the fees, but they are passed onto customers on their bills.

The commission’s 3-0 vote comes as the fund risked facing a shortfall after November. It needs about $50 million this year, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1wl19mC) reported.

The fund also pays for other programs, including Lifeline service for low-income households.

In May, the commission voted 2-1 to delay the fee increase. Commissioner Dana Murphy voted against the delay, saying the commission didn’t have the authority to close down or underfund the program.

Several schools at risk of not being reimbursed for Internet access had recently contacted state lawmakers asking them to put pressure on the Corporation Commission.

Commissioner Patrice Douglas said she deliberately voted to postpone the fee increase in May even though it led to the looming shortfall.

“I think the Legislature needs to look at it,” Douglas said. “My vote was intentional. I wanted to put stress on the Legislature.”

Commissioner Bob Anthony said he thinks some schools and hospitals are receiving Internet access that’s beyond their needs. Because the groups get reimbursed from the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund, Anthony said there’s no incentive to reduce Internet costs.


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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