Either Rep. Brent Haymond has been spending so much time with US WEST that he now writes letters in the syntax peculiar to US WEST's Ted Smith or he is simply superhuman - following many complex issues at the Legislature by day and burning the midnight oil on letters to the editor defending his particularly awful HB263.

Opposed editorially by the Deseret News, HB263 is a money grab by US WEST, plain and simple, and any legislator who thinks raising phone rates again in an election year is a good idea ought to have their head examined.HB263 pretends that the only reason we haven't been bothered during dinner by telemarketers asking us to switch our local phone service to another company besides US WEST is because prices are too low. If only our phone bills were higher, other companies might be interested.

If this is where competition is leading us - a choice of companies to whom we might pay higher rates - the consumer can be forgiven for wondering what the point is.

Internet service providers have known for years that there's more to telephone competition than meets the eye. When one company like US WEST owns all the lines, competition is only accomplished when the company lets some of those lines go at wholesale prices for others to connect to and re-sell.

There are a million subtle ways to monkey-wrench interconnection, and as large-volume purchasers of phone lines, ISPs have watched and suffered from this bungling from the beginning. HB263 raises local rates before those problems are solved. It's like a giant blank check - a bunglers reward, if you will.

An amendment to HB263 proposes that the Public Service Commission revisit the issue of Yellow Pages contributions to the local rate base and raise rates beginning Jan. 1, 2000, after the ratepayers have been compensated for the development of that incredibly lucrative advertising vehicle. How will ratepayers be compensated, though? If you think you'll see a refund on your phone bill, think again.

Clip this letter and put it in a bottle and see if US WEST doesn't come back to the Legislature again and ask for that money to go into a "legacy fund" to strengthen the company's majestic monopoly in Utah. The result: no competition, no new service, higher rates for the same old news. See you at the millennium.

Sue Ashdown

Coalition of Utah Independent

Internet Service Providers

Salt Lake City