A dormant proposal by the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. to charge its District of Columbia customers for local information calls will be revived at hearings this week.
The D.C. Public Service Commission, which conducted hearings on the proposal more than a year ago but took no action, will hear more testimony Tuesday and Wednesday on how such charges might be imposed.
C&P, like other subsidiaries of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. (the Bell System) across the nation, has asked for permission to charge subscribers who dial 411 to obtain local telephone numbers.
Such charges are in effect in about 20 states, including Virginia but not Maryland. Just last week a proposal for such a charge was rejected in Connecticut.
Under the D.C. proposal, each subscriber could place three free calls to information each month, after which each call would cost 29 cents. (The charge in Virginia is 10 cents after six free calls.)
In return for the information charge, the basic bill for each D.C. phone subscriber would be reduced 41 cents a month. C&P has estimated that its volume of information calls would drop 60 percent, producing a net saving of $1.4 million a year.
C&P has said fewer than 9 percent of its customers make half of all information calls. Even if the charge is imposed, it contends only 10 percent of its subscribers would have to pay for information.
Under the pending C&P proposal, handicapped customers such as blind persons and the physically handicapped would be exempt from local information charges. Other exemptions would apply to hospital patients, hotel and motel customers and coin telephone users. There would be no charge for long distance information calls.
Norman D. Reiser, assistant chief accountant of the PSC, said this week's hearings will explore possible further restrictions on the charges. Chief among them might be allowing unlimited free information calls for numbers not listed in the current edition of the telephone directory.
The PSC hearings will be held at 10 a.m. both days in the hearing room of the U.S. Postal Rate Commission, 2000 L St. NW, Suite 500.