The C&P Telephone Company is reaching out and trying to touch you with a very expensive, unprecedented campaign that is confusing, misleading and deceptive.
Entire segments of radio programs have been purchased, full-page ads in bold print have been bought in The Post and in other local newspapers. What is this all about?
Why has C&P now decided to offer us its sympathies about the cost of our phone service? The ads proclaim that "you may be paying us more than you should and we'd like to do something about it."
The phone company all of a sudden cares --really cares that "you may be paying them more than you should." How wonderful! How different and delightful--a corporation with a heart and a soul. But why now?
First, there is a little history to all this. Back in July 1981, C&P filed a petition before the D.C. Public Service Commission, asking permission to offer something it called measured rate service (MRS). That sure sounds innocent enough.
MRS was a system that would charge users, both residential and business, for each and every local call according to the distance, duration and time of day. This is exactly the way long distance charges are computed. Measured rate service would in reality be local long distance.
That may seem to be a contradiction in terms--and it is. The difference between measured rate service and long distance service is zero. The name would be different but the service and the way of determining cost would be precisely the same.
There would be no local service. All service --every type--would become long distance service. A call from Connecticut Avenue to Capitol Hill would be a long distance call. A call from Juniper Street to the District Building, a long distance call. A call from Naylor Road to D.C. General, a long distance call.
At an informal hearing before the D.C. Public Service Commission in the fall of 1981, we were told not to worry, that this MRS was going to be an optional service. The consumer would not have to choose this service. All C&P wanted to do was offer the customer a choice. Reasons were cited by C&P representatives that purported to demonstrate how customers choosing MRS would be able to cut their monthly phone bills.
The monthly bill for local phone service now varies from $7 to $12. C&P made the case that this monthly cost could be further reduced if a consumer chose MRS. Consumers would, in the words of C&P, be controlling their calls.
This is true, but what was not stated by the phone company was that if consumers elected to pick MRS every time they picked up the phone and dialed, they would be making long distance calls.
At a hearing that year, more than 40 citizens, organizations and businesses, both large and small, testified against MRS. They ranged from advisory neighborhood commissioners to travel agencies to real estate firms to the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington.
No one wanted MRS.
In the spring of 1982, there were three community hearings, and scores of citizens of every occupation and age testified against this proposal. The only witness in favor of MRS was C&P. Last September, the D.C. Public Service Commission refused permission to allow MRS, even as an option.
Now we are barraged with ads. The name has been changed to Optional Measured Service (OMS). But the message is the same. If this service is to be optional, what's all the fuss about?
The real and genuine fear is that if OMS is allowed by the D.C. Public Service Commission as an option, C&P will have a foot in the door; and not too long afterward, customers will find that the only option open to them will be MRS--or that the flat monthly rate will be raised to such a high price that everyone will have to choose MRS. They won't have an option.
Last time around, the D.C. Public Service Commission listened, and listened well, to the wishes of the city.
MRS could make it so expensive to communicate that--who knows?--people might stop talking, planning, criticizing or even thinking. Friends, neighbors, new acquaintances across town . . . before I call I know the meter is ticking and I'd better get my thoughts out quickly . . . no time to listen, no time to console.
This MRS or OMS is just a clever subterfuge to raise rates substantially. Everyone would suffer. MRS should, once and for all, be disallowed by the Public Service Commission, and C&P should forget its unfair scheme.