Callers in the District who do not want their telephone numbers known through Caller ID services will have to place calls through an operator at a cost of 45 cents, the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. proposed yesterday.
C&P, a Bell Atlantic Co. subsidiary, submitted its Caller ID plans to the District Public Service Commission in response to PSC action two weeks ago to allow Called ID but only under the condition that a customer had the right to block the service.
Caller ID is viewed by some as a method to discourage unwanted phone calls because the number of the caller would be known to the person receiving the call. Others, however, see it as a violation of a caller's right to privacy, noting that the vast majority of calls are for unobjectionable purposes.
Under the proposal, which must be approved by the PSC, callers would pay 45 cents each time they want to override Caller ID. Ken Pitt, spokesman of Bell Atlantic, said that instead of the usual $1.30 cost for an operator assisted call, the firm would charge a lower rate. Customers would be directed to dial "0" plus the number they are calling and then be connected to an operator. They would tell the operator that they wish to complete a privacy call.
Pitt said that based on the experiences of Caller ID users in New Jersey, where the system was first introduced three years ago by Bell Atlantic, few callers ask to have the service blocked.
C&P originally filed for permission to offer Caller ID service last November. Bell Atlantic has about 120,000 Caller ID subscribers in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
Caller ID has been one of the most controversial issues in the telephone industry. It has been tagged as a violation of the wire-tapping and privacy laws. So far, only Pennsylvania has disallowed the use of the device. California has allowed the system but required blocking.
The Senate subcommittee on technology and the law is holding hearings this week on the issue. There is legislation pending in both houses on whether to require blocking for the service.
C&P President Delano Lewis said that "we hope that the commission's solution for operator-assisted blocking will be effective in addressing the problem of obscene, harassing and annoying phone calls."