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BURLINGTON, Vt. -- The price of a five minute local call from a Bell Atlantic pay phone in Vermont, first set at a dime in 1955, will increase to 35 cents from 10 cents, the company announced today. The five cent rate for additional three-minute call increments will not change.
The process of adjusting each Bell Atlantic pay telephone to the new rate will begin November 19 and will take a few months to complete.
Under FCC rules written to implement the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the price of local calls was deregulated on October 7 and since then, all major independent pay phone providers, as well as GTE, BellSouth, Southwestern Bell and Pacific Telesis have begun raising rates to 35 cents.
"We recognize that a 25-cent increase is a large jump," said Louise McCarren, president and CEO, Bell Atlantic-Vermont. "That's because the 10-cent rate has been artificially low in Vermont for many years. However, letting prices go to a market level that is fair should maintain the availability of pay phones because the price will support the service."
"Like any competitive business, we need to respond to market conditions," said Lorraine Chickering, president-Bell Atlantic Public Communications.
"We compete with other providers for the sites where customers need pay phones," Chickering said. "We must pay competitive commissions to property owners to place our phones in their space, whether they are fast food outlets, gas stations, major airports, or cities responsible for sidewalk phones.
"We also must charge competitive prices to the users of our pay phones, and the competitive price that is emerging is 35 cents for a local call," she said.
After studying the telecommunications market, Congress last year confirmed that the pay phone business is competitive, ordered it deregulated, and required that all direct and indirect subsidies of the service be eliminated. The goal of Congress was "to promote competition...and the widespread deployment of pay phone services to the benefit of the general public," according to the 1996 Telecommunications Act. FCC rules implementing the Act, eliminating subsidies and deregulating prices, took effect in April and October.
Bell Atlantic also is raising the price of a local call to 35 cents in West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New Hampshire. Coin phone price increases will be considered in other markets as conditions warrant.
The new Bell Atlantic -- formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX -- is at the forefront of the new communications, information and entertainment industry. With 40 million telephone access lines and 5.8 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 21 countries.