The Bell Telephone system has been broken up, and the creature that has taken its place has abandoned the concept of universal and affordable telephone service. Instead, it displays an insatiable appetite for picking our pockets.

Until this time, the telephone was not really viewed as a status symbol. You did not have to possess an American Express "Gold Card" or belong to the Chevy Chase Club to have a telephone in your home.

Now, though, just getting a phone installed is getting to be a luxury service in itself. That's before you even start using it. Prior to January 1984, if you could muster up the required $9, you were in business. That wonderful instrument of communications was at your disposal. After January 1984, the fee went up to $25, and now C&P wants to increase it to $52.

The headline "C&P Granted Huge Increase" was not so long ago. In January 1984, a $41.9 million increase was approved. This resulted in a whopping 41 percent increase in charges to both residential and business customers.

You'd think that would have satisfied them. But, seven months later, in August 1984, they were back to the D.C. Public Service Commission begging for $75.8 million. They have since scaled down their request to $54.5 million. The commission will hold its final hearing on that request July 11.

There are four types of residential telephone service in the District. If C&P gets its way, your monthly charges could increase from 88.5 percent to 210 percent.

If that's not enough, C&P has a new trick up its sleeve. It wants to charge all customers $13.42 a month to have the pleasure of hearing a dial tone. That's right. Before you even dial one digit, it will cost you $13.42 a month to hear a dial tone.

C&P has three times been unsuccessful in instituting local long-distance in the District. The company wanted to start charging for local calls, just as they have been for long-distance. The meter would be ticking the moment you picked up the receiver. This $13.42 charge for dial tone and the additional charge for usage is just a new tactic to institute local long-distance.

Recently, a vice president of C&P told the PSC that the company was "desperate" for rate relief. This "desperate" company only made a paltry $417 million in net profits in 1984, making it No. 1 in that category for all corporations in the Washington metropolitan area.

This same vice president went on to say that the proposed new rates "are going to be difficult for some classes of customers -- to say they are fair and affordable is a tough question the commission will have to answer."

Is C&P, by its outlandish rate requests, seeking to drive certain customers off the system? Does the company that has an exclusive franchise to provide local residential phone service -- a monopoly -- want to have only an upscale market, a 1980s designer-class customer?

It's up to all of us to raise our voices to the D.C. Public Service Commission, our council members, and a far-too-silent mayor. We know what is going on and we will not stand for it.