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    A number of customers have taken on Gulf Power because they are angry about the company's proposed $93.5 million rate increase, the Pensacola News Journal reports.

    Officials from Gulf Power faced approximately 200 consumers during a four-hour public hearing before the Florida Public Service Commission. The commission must approve the increase, which the company has proposed, claiming that it needs the extra funds to cover the increased cost of providing power to its eight-county region. In addition, Gulf Power says that the rate increase is integral to attracting investors because it will offer a higher return, the news source states.

    At the hearing, 66 customers spoke out against the rate increase. Many of the speakers were senior citizens on fixed incomes and disabled adults who stated before the officials that the extra fees would make life harder for average citizens trying to make ends meet in this tough economy.

    While the emotional speeches from area residents were noted by the commission, Gulf Power asserted to the panel that they were committed to the community, with officials calling the company a "good community citizen."

    According to the Gulf Power website, the electric utility is the largest single taxpayer in Northwest Florida, where the company serves more than 420,000 customers in 71 towns and communities.