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Bell Atlantic Launches 'National 411' in New York
First State to Get No-Nonsense Directory Assistance Service
with Separate Pricing for Local or National Listings
February 2, 1999
Jim Smith ,
NEW YORK -- With one bold step, Bell Atlantic is coming to the rescue
of telephone customers confused over where to call for accurate directory
assistance information or unwilling to pay inflated prices for local listings.
"We're declaring an end to the distressing customer concern over where to
get accurate listings for any phone number in the country at a fair price,"
said Kitty Linder, vice president of operator services for Bell Atlantic.
"Starting today, New Yorkers can just dial 4-1-1 for directory assistance
anywhere in the United States.
"As our ads say, 'now the number you know for local directory assistance
can get you a number in all 50 states'.
"Bell Atlantic's systems will automatically bill for local listings at our
regular low price and for national listings at a competitive 95 cents,"
Linder said. Competing directory assistance services charge up to $1.40
for all lookups, local and national.
On Monday, Bell Atlantic will begin an aggressive advertising campaign
targeted to customers in New York promoting its new National 411
Directory Assistance service. New York is the first state in the company's
serving area to get the new service, with all 13 states and the District of
Columbia due to receive the service in coming months.
With National 411, customers simply dial the familiar "411" code, say the
city, state and name or business whose number they want and the operator
will provide it. If the number is "local" -- within the caller's regional
calling area -- the service will be billed at the locally tariffed rate, 45 cents
per listing in New York. If it is national number, the request will
automatically be billed at 95 cents for up to two listings.
"There are no qualifiers with our service," Linder said. "You don't have to
be a long distance subscriber, as you do with AT&T's '0-0' service, and
unlike 10-10-9000, you know who's giving you the service -- Bell Atlantic
operators, who are the best in the business.
"Our mission is simple -- to give excellent service with fair prices and to
take the hassle out of directory assistance," she said. "Customers no longer
need to know the area code for the listing they want -- just the city and
state. With the proliferation of new area codes, this will make it easier for
Bell Atlantic's new ad campaign features TV and radio spots that present
anecdotes about customers who need distant numbers. Bell Atlantic
spokesperson James Earl Jones appears, phantom-like, and presents the
solution: National 411 from Bell Atlantic.
Confusion over where to get quality listings at a fair price started when
long distance carriers began to actively promote national directory
Long distance companies provided the listings initially by purchasing the
lookup service for cities they served from local telephone companies. In
recent years, long distance companies declared war with the local
companies and began developing their own services. Customers began to
complain about erroneous listings caused, in part, by the comparatively
weak skills of operators at centralized, distant facilities.
"Now, Bell Atlantic operators who are trained experts in searching for and
delivering accurate listings will be able to do national lookups for our
customers," Linder said.
Bell Atlantic is installing new software in the directory assistance systems
throughout its territory and training operators to process requests for
national numbers. Rollout of the national 411 service to other states will
proceed as the systems and software are installed and operator training is
As part of their training over the past few weeks, operators in New York
who were asked for an area code offered to retrieve listings for customers
at the 95 cent rate. Operators report that customer reaction has been
Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and
information industry. With more than 42 million telephone access lines
and 8.6 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.