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MICHIGAN BELL ASKS PRICE CHANGES FOR COIN PHONES, DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE

 DETROIT, Feb. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Michigan Bell is asking regulators to raise by a nickel the price of a local coin-telephone call in what would be only the second increase in more than 40 years.
 The current 20-cent charge was set in 1976, and coin calls went from 5 cents to 10 cents back in 1952. Nationwide, customers in 37 states already pay a quarter, and in two states the charge is 35 cents for local coin-telephone calls.
 In a companion request to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), Michigan Bell proposed new directory assistance charges which have remained unchanged for more than 10 years.
 "The revenue from these increased prices offsets higher costs and price reductions for other services," said Bob Cooper, pricing director for Michigan Bell.
 Under the company's directory assistance plan, changes would be phased in over a 12-month period following MPSC approval.
 In the first phase, the monthly allowance of free calls would be reduced from 20 to eight and the charge for calls over the allowance would increase from 22 cents to 35 cents.
 The calling allowance would be reduced to five calls a month in the second phase and would go to three calls per month in the final phase.
 In any given month, seven of every 10 Michigan Bell customers would be unaffected by the proposed plan because they make three or fewer calls to directory assistance.
 Michigan Bell's current directory assistance plan went into effect in October 1981. The proposed plan parallels directory assistance orders issued recently by the MPSC for other state telephone companies.
 Even with the changes, the company's price for directory assistance would remain below that charged by the state's other telephone companies and by long-distance companies providing similar services.
 "Today's prices for directory assistance fall far short of covering the costs of providing the service," Cooper said. He explained that directory assistance is operated at a loss of about $38 million a year.
 "Our plan is designed so that the cost of directory assistance is paid for by those who use it, not subsidized by the prices we charge for highly competitive services like long distance," he said.
 Under the plan, the company would continue its long-standing exemption for calls made by the handicapped or from hospitals, hotels, motels and coin phones. Callers to directory assistance would be able to obtain two listings per call, instead of three today.
 In contrast to the history of prices for directory assistance and local coin-telephone calls, the Detroit Consumer Price Index has risen nearly 140 percent since 1976.
 The price of a gallon of milk has risen about 80 percent and a gallon of gas costs about 90 percent more.
 And, in just the last five years, cable television rates have increased more than 60 percent.
 The cost to Michigan Bell of a typical coin-telephone set today is nearly triple the $220 cost of the set in 1976, and the annual cost to maintain coin telephones also has risen more than 50 percent since then.
 If the MPSC approves the price change for coin-telephone calls, it will be phased in over the course of 90 days. Each of Michigan Bell's more than 59,000 coin telephones must be reset for the new price.
 Customers with questions may call the company toll-free at 800-334-6611.
 -0- 2/16/93
 /CONTACT: Phil Jones, 313-223-7194, Dave Ellis, 313-223-7192, or Dean Hovey, 313-223-7197, all of Michigan Bell/


CO: Michigan Bell ST: Michigan IN: TLS SU:

DH -- DE009 -- 6833 02/16/93 11:02 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 16, 1993
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