DR 98-058
                         WILTON TELEPHONE COMPANY
                        Overearnings Investigation
                      Order Approving Temporary Rates
                         O R D E R   N O.  22,968
                               June 30, 1998
         APPEARANCES: Devine, Millimet & Branch by
     Frederick J. Coolbroth, Esq. for Wilton Telephone Company;
     the Office of the Consumer Advocate by William P. Homeyer
     for residential ratepayers, and E. Barclay Jackson, Esq. for
     the Staff of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission.
               Pursuant to New Hampshire Public Utilities
     Commission (Commission) Order No. 22,823 in DR 97-187, the
     Staff of the Commission (Staff) conducted and prepared for
     the Commission a review of the earnings of Wilton Telephone
     Company (Wilton) and the relationship of those earnings to
     Wilton's toll rates.  On April 20, 1998, the Commission
     issued an Order of Notice opening this docket.  The Order of
     Notice scheduled a prehearing conference for May 27, 1998,
     to consider motions to intervene, establish a procedural
     schedule and to address the issue of temporary rates.  The
     Order of Notice required Wilton, Staff, and all parties to
     prefile testimony on the issue of temporary rates by May 20,
               By motion filed April 29, 1998, the Office of the
     Consumer Advocate (OCA) requested that the Commission amend
     the schedule for filing testimony on temporary rates or, in
     the alternative, permit the OCA to file rebuttal testimony
     on that issue after the May 27 prehearing conference. 
     Wilton objected to the OCA's motion on procedural grounds. 
     By letter dated May 18, 1998, the Commission granted the
     OCA's request to file rebuttal testimony and rescheduled the
     date for hearing evidence on the issue of temporary rates to
     June 19, 1998.  Staff and Wilton filed testimony on
     temporary rates on May 22, 1998.  After discussions, Staff
     and Wilton reached agreement regarding the level of
     temporary rates.  The OCA concurred in the agreement.
               After the duly noticed prehearing conference on
     May 27, 1998, the Commission issued an order approving a
     procedural schedule for the permanent rate case, Order No.
               At the hearing on temporary rates on June 19,
     1998, the parties and Staff presented a Stipulation solely
     with regard to the issue of temporary rates in this docket. 
               Staff and the parties agreed that Wilton's
     existing retail rates should go into effect as temporary
     rates as of the date of issuance of this order.  The effect
     of temporary rates is to permit reconciliation of any
     overearnings or underearnings by the company, pursuant to
     RSA 378:27, retroactive to the date of this order.
               Our authority to set temporary rates is explicitly
     authorized by RSA 328:27, conditioned on a finding that such
     rates are in the public interest.  Temporary rates are
     established without the extensive investigation as is
     required for the determination of permanent rates. Re New
     England Telephone & Telegraph Company v. State, 95 N.H. 515
     (1949); Pennichuck Water Works, Inc., 78 NH PUC 197 (1993). 
     The standard for determining temporary and permanent rates
     requires that rates must be sufficient to yield not less
     than a reasonable return on the cost of utility property
     that is used and useful in the public service less accrued
     depreciation.  RSA 378:38, Pennichuck, 78 NHPUC 197, 200. 
               In the instant case the parties and Staff propose
     temporary rates at current levels.  We approved Wilton's
     rates in Docket DF 94-021 (June 6, 1994 ).  We find that the
     proposed temporary rates are consistent with the public
     interest and sufficient to yield a reasonable return on the
     cost of Wilton's property.  Staff will be conducting an
     audit of Wilton, which will provide the information needed
     to determine the company's permanent rate level. 
               Based upon the foregoing, it is hereby 
               ORDERED, that temporary rates for Wilton shall be
     set at current levels.
               By order of the Public Utilities Commission of New
     Hampshire this thirtieth day of June, 1998.
      Douglas L. Patch   Bruce B. Ellsworth    Susan S. Geiger
          Chairman          Commissioner        Commissioner
     Attested by:
          Thomas B. Getz
     Executive Director and Secretary