US WEST Communications wants a hearing on its proposed incentive rate plan delayed until March to give the company more time to respond to a petition seeking to have incentive rate making declared unconstitutional and to an alternative proposal filed by the Utah Division of Public Utilities.

The Dec. 10 hearing before the Utah Public Service Commission is scheduled to consider the incentive rate plan along with other elements of a general rate case that began last month.Commissioners will hear arguments on the US WEST request Friday at 9 a.m., and are expected to set a date to hear arguments on a petition filed by a group seeking to have the Utah law that permits incentive rate making declared unconstitutional.

US WEST is seeking commission approval of a plan that would freeze telephone rates for four years and allow the company to keep half the money earned above a specified profit margin to speed up improvements to the company's statewide system, including installation of a fiber optic trunk line.

A group led by attorney James L. Barker Jr., filed a petition for declaratory judgment on Oct. 31 claiming the law (passed in January by the Legislature) under which US WEST filed its incentive plan does not adhere to the state constitution.

On Nov. 2 the consumer services committee agreed to join Barker's effort if a review by the committee's legal counsel finds merit in the petition.

The committee also declared its intent to oppose US WEST's request to delay the incentive plan hearings.

US WEST attorney Ted Smith cited several reasons for seeking the delay in the company's motion to amend the hearing schedule.

Among the reasons cited were changes in the filing deadline for written testimony by the division, committee and other intervening groups, the absence of an exhibit that has yet to be made available for US WEST review, the need to seek information from the intervening parties and time spent in hearings involving revenue requirements for the company's general rate case.

If the US WEST motion to amend the hearing schedule is granted, the December hearings will run from Dec. 14-19 and focus on the company's revenue requirement. Dec. 14 will be public witness day for those proceedings.