Phone companies offering service in a number of Detroit-area suburbs and several Michigan cities, including Flint, Lansing and Grand Rapids, soon will be able to set their own rates for residential and business customers.
The three-member Michigan Public Service Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to give up its power to set telephone rates in two large regions of the Lower Peninsula in an effort to increase competition and lower prices.
Thursday's order came several months after the commission voted to deregulate telephone rates for businesses in Detroit, Royal Oak and Southfield for one year. The new order deregulates telephone rates for residential customers in those areas for the same trial period.
The commission permanently deregulated residential and business rates in the area that covers exchanges in several Detroit-area suburbs, Ann Arbor, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Mount Clemens, Pontiac and Ypsilanti.
The commission said telephone rates in those areas officially will be deregulated a month and a half after all telephone companies tell their customers about the change.
Although regulators won't set telephone rates in the coming months, they will handle some other telecommunications issues, including licensing regulations and local calling areas.
SBC Communications Inc. filed a notice last fall asking for the deregulation of rates in both areas. The San Antonio-based telecommunications giant argued there was adequate competition in those places.
The commission's two Democrats, Chairman J. Peter Lark and Monica Martinez, voted to deregulate telephone rates. Republican Commissioner Laura Chappelle voted against giving up control of residential rates in both areas.