Placing out-of-state long distance telephone calls from pay phones has become a little more complicated in recent days.
As of April 1, many pay phones no longer provide automatic access to AT&T long distance service as they have in the past.Paula White, AT&T public presubscription manager, said the court ruling that broke up the AT&T monopoly in 1983 is now being applied to pay phones. "This is just one more piece of the puzzle," White said.
In Utah, the change means that public pay phones are no longer automatically linked to AT&T for out-of-state long distance service. Instead, the owners of the property where the pay phones are located have the option of choosing which company will provide that long distance service.
Earlier this year, property owners were sent ballots on which they could select the service desired. Those not returning ballots were randomly assigned to a company on a lottery-like basis.
That change could have dramatic impact on the fee paid for an operator assisted call. Rates vary greatly between services, and users will be billed for a call by the company providing the long distance service unless the customer specifically requests service from another company.
"We hope that customers will take time to look for and listen for the company they want," said White. "They're used to a certain kind of service, but there may be some confusion now."
The name of the company providing the long distance service is supposed to be listed on the phone, and US West is attempting to get those identifications posted as quickly as possible.
White said customers will have to learn to look before they dial or they may get a surprise. She said AT&T is making an effort to inform its customers of the change and provide them with information on how to access the AT&T system without having to look specifically for an AT&T affiliated pay phone. She said by dialing 10-ATT-0 followed by the area code and telephone number desired, the call will automatically be routed to an AT&T operator. She said other companies are expected to develop similar systems.
Not only will the billings and rates change, but the operator service and directory assistance services offered for long distance calls will be handled by the company assigned to the particular pay phone unless an access code is dialed by the customer.
White said there is significant competition for the phones presently in place and that competition will continue for new placements in the future.
The transition began April 1 and will likely continue for some time into the future as property owners settle on a provider service. Those randomly assigned to a company still have an option to switch to another service if desired.
White said pay phones retained by US West will be unaffected since AT&T will continue to provide service to those phones.