Utah Public Service commissioners have rejected a request to narrow the scope of upcoming hearings for an incentive regulation plan proposed by US WEST Communications.

A lawyer for the Utah Committee of Consumer Services had requested the scope be narrowed because of US WEST's veto power granted by last year's legislation allowing the commission to consider incentive regulation for public utilities.US WEST's plan calls for a four-year freeze on rates in return for the company accelerating a $103 million system-wide modernization plan and the company being allowed to keep part of any excess earnings in a specified range above its authorized profit margin if those excess earnings result from improved company efficiency.

The committee said in its petition that prefiled testimony by the company indicating it will not consider any alternatives proposed by other groups puts those groups in the position of wasting time and money in hiring expert witnesses for the upcoming hearings which begin Feb. 28.

During arguments on the committee's motion, the company said it is willing to consider alternatives and will wait for the commission's final order before determining whether to proceed with the incentive plan. State law allows the company to opt out of an incentive plan and return to traditional regulatory processes if it desires.

The company also backed off of earlier statements that it would reject any plan based on a profit margin of 11.8 percent or less.