US WEST Communications has verbally notified the Utah Public Service Commission that it wants to delay hearings on an incentive rate plan now scheduled for hearing in December.

Steve Hewlett, the commission's executive secretary, said the commission will probably consider the request to reschedule the hearings for March late next week.At that time, the commission is also expected to set a formal hearing to hear arguments by a group opposed to incentive ratemaking that is requesting the commission declare such ratemaking unconstitutional under the state constitution.

A group represented by attorney James L. Barker, filed a request for declaratory judgment with the commission on Wednesday.

Hewlett said the commission expects to receive a written request from US WEST on Friday, at which time a formal hearing will be scheduled. At that hearing, the commission will also set a date to hear arguments on the request for declaratory judgment.

US WEST is seeking approval for an incentive rate plan it believes will allow the company to speed up improvements to the state's telecommunications network. The company wants to use the plan to finance a $103 million improvement program that includes a fiber optic trunk system.

As proposed, the commission would freeze telephone rates for four years and allow US WEST to retain a portion of excess profits above the approved profit margin. This would be the incentive for speeding up efforts to improve the system.