CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The price of a local call from a Bell Atlantic Public Communications pay phone in West Virginia, unchanged since 1985, will increase to 35 cents from 25 cents, the company announced today. In addition, Bell Atlantic-West Virginia is expanding the local calling area for calls from Bell Atlantic pay phones throughout the state, allowing pay phone users to reach more numbers at local rates.
The process of adjusting each Bell Atlantic pay telephone to the new rate is beginning today and will take a few months to complete. The enlargement of local calling areas will be phased in over the next year.
Under FCC rules written to implement the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the price of local calls was deregulated on Oct. 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 pay phone call is still one of the best bargains in any market," said Dennis Bone, president and CEO, Bell Atlantic-West Virginia. "Since 1985 when the price of a call was last increased, the price of a cup of coffee has gone up 72 percent and the average monthly cable TV bill has more than doubled."
Local calling areas were expanded several years ago for residence and business calling. Pay phones will be changed to have the same local calling area as residence and business phones. As a result, some calls from Bell Atlantic pay phones that are now regional toll calls will soon be local calls, resulting in lower prices.
"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 also must charge competitive prices to the users of our pay phones, and the competitive price that is emerging in the market is 35 cents for a local call," 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 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 is also raising the price of a local call to 35 cents in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Vermont 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.