97. Rates, rentals and service. 1. Whenever the commission shall be of opinion, after a hearing, had upon its own motion or upon a complaint that the rates, charges, tolls or rentals demanded, exacted, charged or collected by any telegraph corporation or telephone corporation subject to its jurisdiction for the transaction of messages or communications by telegraph or telephone or for the rental or use of any telegraph line, telephone line or any telegraph instrument, wire, appliances, apparatus or device or any telephone receiver, transmitter, instrument, wire, cable, apparatus, conduit, machine, appliance or device or any telephone extension or extention system or that the rules, regulations or practices of any telegraph corporation or telephone corporation affecting such rates, charges, rentals or service are unjust, unreasonable or unjustly discriminatory or unduly preferential or in anywise in violation of law, or that the maximum rates, charges or rentals chargeable by any such telegraph corporation or telephone corporation are insufficient to yield reasonable compensation for the service rendered, the commission shall, with due regard, among other things, to a reasonable average return upon the value of the property actually used in the public service and to the necessity of making reservation out of income for surplus and contingencies, determine the just and reasonable rates, charges and rentals to be thereafter observed and in force as the maximum to be charged, demanded, exacted or collected for the performance or rendering of the service specified notwithstanding that a higher or lower rate, charge or rental has been theretofore prescribed by general or special statute, contract, grant, franchise condition, consent or other agreement and shall fix the same by order to be served upon all telegraph corporations and telephone corporations by which such rates, charges or rentals are thereafter to be observed, and thereafter no increase in any rate, charge or rental so fixed shall be made without the consent of the commission. Any such change in rate, charge or rental shall be upon such terms, conditions or safeguards as the commission may prescribe. At any hearing involving a rate, charge or rental, the burden of proof to show that the change in the rate, charge or rental, if proposed by the person or corporation operating the utility, or that the existing rate, if on motion of the commission or in a complaint filed with the commission it is proposed to reduce the rate, charge or rental, is just and reasonable, shall be upon the person or corporation operating such utility; and the commission may give to the hearing and decision of such question preference over all other questions pending before it and decide the same as speedily as possible. If it shall be made to appear to the satisfaction of the commission that the public interest requires a change in the rate, charge or rental for telephone or telegraph service charged by any such person or corporation, or that such change is necessary for the purpose of providing adequate or sufficient service or for the preservation of the property, the commission may, upon such terms, conditions or safeguards as it deems proper, authorize an immediate, reasonable, temporary increase or decrease in such rate, charge or rental pending a final determination of the rate, charge or rental to be thereafter demanded, exacted or collected by such person or corporation. The terms, conditions or safeguards prescribed may include conditions for the purposes for which additional revenue derived from any such temporary increase may be expended and for the impounding thereof until the same shall be applied to the purpose so specified.
2. Whenever the commission shall be of the opinion, after a hearing had upon its own motion or upon complaint that the rules, regulations or practices of any telegraph corporation or telephone corporation are unjust or unreasonable or that the equipment or service of any telegraph corporation or telephone corporation is inadequate, inefficient, improper or insufficient, the commission shall determine the just, reasonable, adequate, efficient and proper regulations, practices, equipment and service thereafter to be installed, to be observed and used, and to fix and prescribe the same by order to be served upon every telegraph corporation and telephone corporation to be bound thereby and thereafter it shall be the duty of every telegraph corporation and telephone corporation to which such order is directed to obey each and every such order so served upon it and to do everything necessary or proper in order to secure compliance with and observance of every such order by all its officers, agents and employees according to its true intent and meaning. Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed as giving to the commission power to make any order, direction or requirement requiring any telegraph corporation or telephone corporation to perform any act which is unjust or unreasonable or in violation of any law of this state or of the United States not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter.
3. The commission shall have power by order to require any two or more telegraph corporations or any two or more telephone corporations whose lines form a continuous line of communication, or could be made to do so by the construction and maintenance of suitable connections or transfer of messages at common points, between different localities which are not reached by the line of either company alone, to establish through lines within the state between two or more such localities and joint rates or charges for service by or over said lines as the commission may by its order prescribe and in case such through lines and joint rates be not established by the corporations named in any such order within the time therein specified, the commission shall have power by order to establish the same and to fix the just and reasonable rates and charges to be charged for such through service and to declare the portion thereof to which each of the corporations affected thereby shall be entitled and the manner in which the same shall be secured and paid.
Last modified: September 11, 2016