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Long-Distance Dialing Is About to Get Trickier

January 16, 1986|DENISE GELLENE | Times Staff Writer

Here is yet another puzzling result of telephone deregulation: Depending on where you are calling, you soon may have to dial 00 to get the operator.

As a result of the court-ordered breakup of Ma Bell in 1984, American Telephone & Telegraph and Pacific Bell are splitting responsibility for operator-assisted calls. AT&T operators will help on long long-distance calls, and Pacific Bell operators will help on short long-distance calls.

To get an AT&T operator, you dial 00. To get a Pacific Bell operator, you dial 0.

This means that if you want to call your mother in Spokane or San Francisco person-to-person, you will have to dial 00. But if you want to call your high school buddy in Ventura person-to-person, you need only dial 0.

The official lines of demarcation appear in Pacific Bell telephone books. Pacific Bell has chopped up the state into 10 service areas. The service area that includes Los Angeles extends south to San Clemente and north to Ventura. Long-distance calls made within that region will soon be handled by Pacific Bell operators. Anything else will be handled by AT&T.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday January 17, 1986 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
Pacific Bell expects to save $23 million in 1986 by using its own long-distance operators. The amount was incorrectly reported in Thursday's editions of The Times.

California is not being picked on; AT&T says the whole country will be converted eventually. In the Pacific Northwest, telephone customers have been on the new system for some time.

"We were prepared for the worst, but the public really hasn't reacted," said Walt Greenwood, an AT&T community affairs manager in Seattle. "If someone dials zero instead of double zero, the operator just gives the right number to call.

"It's kind of like dialing someone who isn't home and has moved to a new number," he said. "It's inconvenient, but it's not a big problem."

AT&T said it will alert its California customers through mailings that explain the change and say exactly when it will occur. AT&T said the conversion will be phased in throughout the state between March and June.

Pacific Bell spokesman Dick Fitzmaurice said the change is occuring now because, at the time of the break-up, AT&T was awarded ownership of the equipment that operators use, while Pacific Bell and other local phone companies were given the responsibility for helping customers with local calls. "We had to go out and acquire the console equipment," Fitzmaurice said.

Currently, AT&T assists Pacific Bell customers under a contractual agreement with the company. When Pacific Bell begins to provide its own operator service, it expects to save $423 million, Fitzmaurice said.

About half of AT&T's 5,000 operators are going to work for Pacific Bell. The phone companies expect to split the 1.9 million operator-assisted calls made each day in California.

Now, what happens if you do not have AT&T service? Well, it goes like this:

If you have not yet been asked to choose a long-distance carrier, then no matter which service you have, you will still be able get an AT&T operator by dialing 00.

If you live in region in which customers have been asked to select a long-distance company, and you did not pick AT&T, 00 will get you the long-distance operator of your particular company. If, of course, your particular long-distance company has operators, and not all do.

The operator changes do not affect General Telephone customers.

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