Southern Utahns told the State Committee of Consumer Services Friday that they're tired of paying long-distance tolls for telephone calls between St. George and surrounding communities.
Residents asked the committee to represent them when the Public Service Commission meets in St. George next month."If you don't want to pay a long-distance charge, the only person you can call is yourself," said Hurricane Mayor Dewey Hardcastle.
Residents of rural Washington, Iron and Beaver counties are asking the consumer committee to recommend that Mountain Bell provide them with extended-area service. Under an extended-area service agreement, Hurricane residents would be able to place calls to St. George without paying the long-distance toll now charged by Mountain Bell.
"If you were to go out and use the pay phone to call from here to Hurricane, which is all of 16 miles away, I daresay you couldn't make it for less than $1.85," said Hardcastle. "I've talked to many people who pay between $50 and $75 a month just for calls into St. George."
The Enterprise city offices logged $129 in toll calls to St. George last month, said city officials who urged the committee to recommend an extended-area service agreement between those two communities.
There's already an extended-area service agreement between Enterprise and Beryl and Newcastle, but officials say that in some cases the cities are paying more for the agreement than they would pay in toll calls to those communities.
Phil Bullock, the committee's telecommunications expert, cautioned Southern Utahns not to get their hopes up for extended-area service to all the communities.
"The law says that half the people in the petitioning town must make at least two calls to the non-petitioning town," he said. "The average should be five calls per residential line per month."
He said that for Hurricane to get extended-area service to St. George, 15 percent of the people in St. George must call Hurricane.
Bullock said 71 percent of the people in Enterprise made two or more calls to St. George in a month. "The average Enterprise resident user makes 7.1 calls to St. George per month," he said.
He said that despite the high number of calls going to St. George, the extended-area service may not be approved because only 3 percent of St. George residents call Enterprise.
"That says there's no reason to have an extended-area circuit from St. George to Enterprise," Bullock said, "but there may be a necessity to have another class of service called one-way extended-area service. So there may be other options."
He said Mountain Green in northern Utah and Brigham City are situation similar to that of Enterprise.
He said the volume of calls between St. George and Springdale is growing, so those communities may be able to get extended-area service eventually.
Beaver County officials have petitioned for extended-area service throughout the county. But because of the small number of residents in the county, the extended-area service fee could be $7 per month.