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Porn-Call Blocking Service Delayed

February 04, 1988|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Glendale residents who want to block telephone access to 976 prefix services, including the so-called "dial-a-porn" numbers, may have to wait a year or change their home phone numbers.

Because of a dispute between city officials and Pacific Bell, more than 13,000 residential customers throughout the city are not eligible for the blocking service, which was announced two weeks ago by Pacific Bell.

Phone company officials said equipment at a switching station in Glendale that handles the 240, 246 and 247 prefixes is outmoded and incapable of blocking 976 calls.

Pacific Bell had planned to install equipment more than a year ago, but the work was delayed because the Glendale Redevelopment Agency was negotiating to buy the property, which is next to the Glendale Galleria. Glendale officials said this week that negotiations have ended without success.

The Glendale station is the only metropolitan facility that lacks modern equipment, said Charlene Baldwin, Pacific Bell media relations manager.

Residents can opt to switch their phone number to a different prefix, at no charge, so as to receive the blocking service or wait until the end of the year when new equipment is expected to be installed. The one-time cost of the blocking service is $2.

Others in Remote Areas

Baldwin said only 1% of the company's customers in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are without the blocking service. However, she said the eight other stations lacking the equipment are located in remote areas, such as Littlerock in the Antelope Valley or on Catalina Island. Older equipment at those stations serves relatively few customers, Baldwin said.

Ron Shively, Pacific Bell area manager, said the company applied 18 months ago for a city permit to install the equipment. However, Shively said, the action was delayed after Glendale Redevelopment Agency officials said they were interested in acquiring the telephone company property. Installation of new equipment would have increased the agency's costs if it had decided to purchase the property, he said.

Redevelopment officials for years have proposed expanding the Glendale Galleria along Brand Boulevard to Colorado Street. The proposed expansion would have included the switching station, which is located on Orange Street immediately south of the Galleria.

However, after more than a year of negotiations with the phone company, Glendale officials said they are no longer interested in purchasing the switching station. Talks broke off in November and no further action regarding the property is planned , said Susan Shick, redevelopment director.

New Facility Proposed

Shick said the agency proposed that the company build a facility with state-of-the-art digital equipment capable of serving downtown for the next 20 years or more.

She said the agency suggested that the new facility be built either underground, on property owned by the agency and adjoining the present building, or outside the redevelopment zone. With an underground facility, she said, the Galleria could later be expanded on top of the switching station.

Shick said the current switching station is an "obsolescent facility." She also said the location of a multistory electronic equipment facility in the heart of the shopping district is no longer suitable. "You don't put switching stations in the middle of a downtown urban area."

Phone company officials, however, said the agency's proposals were too costly.

Shick said the city has no plans to acquire the phone company property through eminent domain proceedings. "We will build around them," Shick said.

Meantime, Shively said Pacific Bell is waiting to receive formal notice from the city that it has dropped plans to acquire the building before ordering new equipment. He said equipment capable of blocking 976 numbers and providing other new services could be installed by the end of the year.

The California Public Utilities Commission in December gave Pacific Bell permission to block access to the 976 lines after consumer groups complained that children often dial numbers that give sexually explicit messages.

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