The Virginia State Corporation Commission ruled yesterday that businesses can operate their own pay telephones in the state as of July 1, provided local telephone companies agree. The calls cannot cost more than 25 cents, the current rate, under the ruling.
The Virginia regulatory agency had been considering the controversial issue since April and numerous entrepreneurs interested in selling and maintaining the phones had urged the action, said Ned Addison, director of telecommunications for the SCC.
Telephone utilities, nevertheless, will have the final say in whether pay phones may be privately owned in their territories. "It will be voluntary; if the companies want to file tariffs they can do it at their option," said Addison.
Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Virginia, the largest of 20 telephone utilities in the state, is likely to agree to serving the privately owned pay telephones, Addison said.
The company serves 80 percent of the state and receives an average income of $71 a month from each of 32,000 pay phones it owns in Virginia, said Addison.
A C&P spokesman said the company was evaluating yesterday's decision.
Currently, businesses must turn over all of the revenue from pay phones to phone utilities that pay a small commission to the establishments where the phones are located.
Under new SCC rules, businesses would have to pay phone companies $11 a month for the use of a telephone line, plus 10.6 cents from every local coin call.
Businesses have the option of letting a vendor install and maintain the phones, as well as bear the expenses. Businesses where telephones are located could then get a 15 to 20 percent commission from the vendors, a rate well above the current level.
Private pay phones also must be equipped to receive incoming calls, be registered with the SCC, be compatible with hearing aids, accessible to the disabled and provide access to 911 emergency service and the operator without the use of a coin.