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Regulatory ruling could extend service fee to cellphones

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) -

A regulatory agency could effectively decide whether cellphone customers in South Carolina will start paying a fee created for rural phone service.
    
The state Public Service Commission began hearing arguments Tuesday on a petition filed by local telephone companies. They want the agency that oversees utilities to declare that wireless companies compete for their customers.
    
Such a ruling would trigger a fee expansion under state law. At issue is the state's Universal Service Fund, which the Legislature created in 1996 to ensure affordable phone service for rural residents.
    
The state's 1 million landline customers would pay less as the fees extend to 4.5 million cellphone customers and all internet phones.
    
Proponents call it an issue of fairness.
    
Wireless companies argue the entire subsidy program is antiquated and should be evaluated.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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