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Law requires choice of long-distance carrier

By Katherine Shim

The recently approved federal Telephone Operator Consumer Services Improvements Act outlaws "call-blocking" and gives colleges an 18-month window period to make appropriate changes with their chosen long-distance carriers.

Call-blocking is a term for situations in which a college forces all of its telephone users to use one particular long-distance carrier by blocking alternative paths to other phone companies.

"Widespread consumer dissatisfaction of rates and practices," has also led the Federal Communications Commission to pursue the elimination of call-blocking. In a report released this summer, Policies and Rules Concerning Operator Service Providers, the FCC recommends forbidding colleges from call-blocking.

With the recent mandate from Congress, the FCC is likely to decide in favor of instituting its new regulations, said Morton Berlan, director of Telecommunications Systems.

The new regulations, however, will produce few changes in the current long-distance service system of the Institute, Berlan said.

MIT, which has a contract for telephone service with AT&T and the ACUS Operator Service, does not block alternate carriers. Dormitory residents who dial 9+1 to access ACUS still have the option of dialing 190, 800, or 950 to use calling cards. Under the new regulations proposed by the FCC, colleges must allow students alternative access by dialing 800, 950, and 10XXX+0.

"I have spoken with AT&T-ACUS," said Berlan, "and we have agreed that if a decision is made by the FCC in favor of these new regulations, AT&T will modify our system to accommodate the new changes."

Since MIT's current system is mostly in compliance with the FCC regulations already, modification of the system would not be drastic, Berlan noted. The prospect of multiple long-

distance carriers servicing MIT is unlikely, he said.

Regulations will have no effect on the current long-distance rate price structure. ACUS will continue to be cheaper than calling-card calls, which impose a surcharge. And collect calls will continue to be the most expensive, Berlan said.

In a count taken on Oct. 15, ACUS subscribers totaled 1942 students, with an estimated potential of 3297 subscribers, numbering 59 percent of housing residents.