TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline)-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is asking state regulators to fine Verizon Communications $6.5 million for what he called repeated violations of state service rules.

A 15-page petition was filed with the Florida Public Service Commission by McCollum's office, Florida Public Counsel J.R. Kelly and the AARP.

"We expect Florida companies that are regulated by the Florida Public Service Commission on behalf of Florida consumers to comply with the rules of the Commission," McCollum said.

The $6.5 million fine, or $25,000 per violation, being sought is the maximum allowable for violation of the service repair rules.

Under the regulations, restoration of 95 percent of service outages is required within 24 hours and 95 percent of other trouble reports within 72 hours.

Verizon Florida LLC, which provides voice, data and video services provider for six counties in west-central Florida.

The company allegedly violated the commission's rules for service repairs 262 times during 2007. Verizon settled a similar complaint in 2001 with a $2 million voluntary contribution to the Florida general revenue fund.

"Reliable and available telephone service can be critical to consumers during emergencies," said AARP attorney Mike Twomey in a statement.

"Verizon's failure to fully comply with the PSC's repair rules
necessarily extended some of its customers' service outages, making their service less reliable and less available," Twomey said.

Verizon Florida says it maintains more than 5 million lines of service in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Sarasota and Manatee counties.

"Verizon is providing great phone service and investing hundreds of millions of dollars to serve Floridians in a fiercely competitive telecommunications market where customers reward the best service providers with their business," said Alan Ciamporcero, Verizon southeastern regional president.

"Furthermore, Verizon faces regulatory scrutiny that our competitors don't, although we all face similar challenges in serving customers," he said in a statement.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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