Toll-free telephone calling zones throughout California will be expanded beginning Saturday, allowing phone users to call within a wider radius of their homes and offices at no extra charge.
The changes, approved late last year by the California Public Utilities Commission, increase toll-free calling areas from about 8 miles to about 12 miles from the center of a community. The changes also affect coin-operated telephones.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday May 31, 1991 Home Edition Business Part D Page 2 Column 1 Financial Desk 3 inches; 75 words Type of Material: Correction
Calling Zones--An article in Wednesday's editions on the expansion of toll-free calling zones in California erroneously said the change would result in no extra charges to customers. GTE customers, in fact, are being assessed an additional 6.4% of their local service charges for the toll-free zone expansion and the inclusion of touch-tone service in the monthly service fee. Pacific Bell customers are not being charged directly for the new services. However, they will no longer receive a 6% credit on their local service charges.
Both Pacific Bell and GTE, the state's dominant carriers, said it is difficult to determine the exact savings for the average customer. However, callers with large local toll charges are likely to benefit from the expansion of the toll-free zone.
The pending changes basically eliminate what are now known as "Zone 2" charges--8 cents for the first minute and 2 cents for each additional minute--by including this territory in the toll-free zone that Pacific Bell customers get for a $8.35 flat monthly rate ($9.75 for GTE customers).
The following calls--all currently with Zone 2 charges--are a sampling of calls that will become toll free for flat-rate customers under the new toll system: Glendale to Van Nuys, El Segundo to Beverly Hills, Fullerton to Santa Ana, Garden Grove to Newport Beach, Riverside to San Bernardino, West Los Angeles to Beverly Hills, La Puente to Buena Park, Long Beach to Torrance and Beverly Hills to downtown Los Angeles.
For customers with measured rate service--where charges are based more closely on actual usage--the pending changes will result in a 50% cut in Zone 2 calling fees, to 4 cents for the first minute and 1 cent for each additional minute. Residential customers may experiment with both flat and measured rate service from June 1 through Aug. 31 without additional charges to determine which type of service is more economical for them.
The expanded toll-free calling area was approved by the PUC last year when it overhauled regulations governing profit ceilings of the state's telephone carriers and set the stage for greater competition in "local long-distance" service.
In exchange for increasing the toll-free territory and including touch-tone service as part of the basic service, the telephone companies were given the right to potentially earn greater profits. Under the new profit guidelines, phone companies can earn more if they keep their costs low--a marked shift from the past when profits were a fixed percentage of actual costs.
The next phase of the PUC's new regulatory thrust--increased competition in local long-distance calling--has not yet been formally approved. However, the commission has made it clear that it expects to open this service--which would include, for example, calls between Los Angeles and San Diego--to such long-distance carriers as American Telephone & Telegraph, MCI and US Sprint.