More telephone lines in the Washington area were converted to provide "equal access" yesterday so that consumers can reach the long-distance company of their choice without dialing lengthy access codes.
Additional telephone exchanges now offering easy "Dial 1" service to customers are 224, 225, and 226 in Southwest Washington; 373, 561, 562, 563, 574 and 767 in Congress Heights; 295, 493, 530, 897 and 564 in Wildwood, Md.; 436, 454, 699, 851, 852, 277, 779, 864, 927 and 965 in Hyattsville, Md; 548, 549, 683, 684, 836 and 838 in Alexandria, Va.; and 435, 437, 471, 478 and 689 in Herndon, Va.
Equal access, a process mandated by the breakup of the Bell System, gives long-distance competitors of American Telephone & Telegraph Co. the same quality connection to local phone networks AT&T now has.
Most telephone lines nationwide are being converted to provide equal access, and one-third of the lines will be converted by September 1985, with all lines converted by the end of 1986.
In this area, Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. has been notifying customers 90 days in advance of the start of equal access and asking them to select a primary long-distance service by contacting the company of their choice. Customers have an additional six months to make a selection after the service date without charge. After that, those wishing to switch to another long-distance service must pay $5.
Customers who make no choice within the first six months automatically stay with, or "default to," AT&T.
Because many long-distance competitors of AT&T have complained that customers have little incentive to choose a company under the current system, the Federal Communications Commission is reviewing implementation of a balloting procedure. Customers would then be obligated to "vote" and would be assigned to a long-distance company by the local telephone company if they did not. Customers could then switch to the service of their choice at a later date.