The Post's article on the various long-distance discount plans [front page, Aug. 10] was informative but did not tell the whole story. While the actual long-distance rates may be down, the increase in overall phone bills has increased since Ma Bell was broken up. They have reached the point at which the consumer is most likely realizing no savings at all, especially for low long-distance users. The frustrating part is that consumers have no control over these charges even if they manage to find a long-distance company to match their calling patterns.

Looking at my most recent bill from Bell Atlantic, I find that my actual "service" costs me $14.67 (of which $7.50 is for Caller ID to protect me from all the long-distance companies that want my business). Add on the Federal Subscriber Line Charge, the Local Number Portability Surcharge, the 911 Tax, the Virginia Relay Center Surcharge, the Public Rights-of-Way Use Fee, the local surcharge and the federal tax, and I find my service costs me $21.41 -- or 46 percent more.

On the long-distance side, my calls added up to $2.90. Add to that my Partial Minimum Usage Fee, the National Access Fee, the Federal Universal Service Fee, the federal excise tax and the federal, state and local surcharges, and my long distance costs me $6.78 -- or 130 percent more.

So out of a total bill of $28.19, $10.62, or 38 percent, was taxes and fees. Where's the savings?



Robert Kuttner's column on long-distance rip-offs was right on target [op-ed, Aug. 24]. We spent 18 months trying to get MCI to agree that we were billed $200 more than we should have been for calls to London. It was no easy task because each time you call you are connected with a different person and must start from scratch; MCI representatives cannot be called directly.

After much struggle, MCI finally agreed to cancel the $200 charge and sent us a letter telling us we would be credited by Bell Atlantic. Naturally, Bell Atlantic knew nothing about it. A series of three-way calls followed, and we still have not been credited. Now Bell Atlantic is threatening to turn off our phone. MCI is simply the worst company we have ever dealt with, although Bell Atlantic is also fairly unresponsive.

We so miss Ma Bell and the good old days of monopoly. The judge who ordered the phone company breakup should be ashamed!


Chevy Chase