West Virginians to See Savings On Bell Atlantic Bills Starting This Month

West Virginians to See Savings On Bell Atlantic Bills Starting This Month

Credits Reflect Federal Outlay of $30.8 Million to Mountain State

May 18, 2000


Paul Miller,

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Late this month, West Virginians will begin to see savings on their Bell Atlantic bills, the result of a $30.8-million payment from a federal fund to lower phone bills in high-cost states.

Bell Atlantic's residential customers in the state will receive monthly credits on their phone bills ranging from $1 to $5, depending on the type of local phone service they have. The credits for many business customers range from $4 to $8.75 a month.

The monthly credits will appear on Bell Atlantic bills starting May 20. However, the credit is retroactive to Jan. 1, which means some residential customers could have one-time credits as high as $25.

"This is a real savings for our customers," said Dennis Bone, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic - West Virginia. "A number of people helped customers obtain this benefit, including Sen. Rockefeller, the original architect of the relief, and Gov. Underwood who appealed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for assistance."

Residential customers who subscribe to Bell Atlantic's Frequent Caller plan will get a monthly credit of $5, or more than 17 percent off the basic rate. Credits for other basic residential services are as follows: Community Plus Caller, $3.50; Community Caller, $2.50; Thrifty Caller, $1, and Tel-Assistance, $1.

Business customers with Frequent Caller service will enjoy a monthly credit of $8.75. Those with Thrifty Caller service will be credited $4 a month.

The credits follow a move by the FCC last October to give seven predominantly rural states $210 million a year to help curb the high cost of providing local phone service. West Virginia's portion amounts to $30.8 million.

"It's extremely costly to provide phone service in West Virginia because of our mountainous terrain and largely rural population," Bone explained.

The monies come from a nationwide Universal Service Fund, which receives payments from telecommunications companies across the U.S.

The FCC traditionally has used the Universal Service Fund to support phone service to small, rural phone companies. But rural states served by large companies, such as Bell Atlantic, were sidestepped by a rule that said the funds would go only to phone companies with fewer than 200,000 lines. Bell Atlantic has over 844,000 lines in West Virginia, yet it incurs the same relative high costs in providing phone service as many small, rural companies.

West Virginia has already been receiving $1.5 million a year from the federal government, and that support is reflected in Bell Atlantic's existing rates. The credits that will begin appearing on bills this month reflect the additional $29.3 million in funding.

The credits may be changed or eliminated next year once levels of federal support, if any, are set for 2001.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With more than 44 million telephone access lines and more than 20 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.