NEWARK, N.J. -- The price of a local call from a Bell Atlantic pay phone in New Jersey, unchanged since 1982, will increase to 35 cents from 20 cents, the company announced today.
Bell Atlantic-New Jersey plans to implement a Lifeline Service available at monthly rates ranging from $.90 to $1.89 with up to 100 minutes of use free for eligible low-income customers who might rely on pay phones for routine calling
The process of adjusting each Bell Atlantic pay telephone to the new rate is beginning today 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.
"At 35 cents, the local call is still one of the best bargains in any market," said Len J. Lauer, president and CEO, Bell Atlantic-New Jersey. "Since 1982 when the price of a call was last increased, the price of a daily newspaper has more than doubled and a basket of food costs 65 percent more.
"Like any competitive business, we need to respond to market conditions," said Lorraine Chickering, president-Bell Atlantic Public Communications. "We compete with hundreds of other providers for the sites where customers need pay phones," Chickering said. "We must pay competitive commissions to property owners to place our pay phones in their space, whether they are fast food outlets, gas stations, major airports, or cities responsible for sidewalk phones.
"We must also charge competitive prices to the users of our pay phones and the competitive price that is emerging in the market is 35 cents," she said.
After studying the telecommunications market, Congress last year confirmed that the pay telephone business is competitive, ordered it deregulated, and required that all direct and indirect subsidies 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 is also raising the price of a local call to 35 cents in West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont and New Hampshire. Coin phone price increases will be considered in other areas 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.