US WEST Communications has started using a new per-minute rate schedule for phone calls covered by its "local measured service," which was approved by regulators last year.

Local measured service allows customers with limited local calling needs to pay a reduced monthly fee plus an additional cents-per-minute charge for each local call, rather than a flat monthly rate for unlimited local calls.Calls within a customer's home community will be billed at 2 cents per minute, and local calls to other communities will cost 3 cents per minute. The previous per-minute rate varied from 1 to 8 cents, depending on the distance and duration of the call.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved the new fee structure last year as a way to simplify the service. US WEST started using it this month in its southern Idaho service area.

The basic monthly fee for local measured service, the 25 percent discount on evening calls and 50 percent discount on night, weekend and holiday calls, have not changed.