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Caller ID falls short in this area

July 28, 1997

Caller ID falls short in this area

Woman learns, finally, AT&T won't connect info network to local system

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Starting new home telephone service after her recent move to Keedysville, Stephanie Crowley agreed to try out Bell Atlantic's Caller ID Deluxe service, which she was told would allow her to see a caller's name and number on a separate display unit.

Crowley said she based the decision on a positive memory of the service, which she had during its test-marketing in the Toronto, Canada, area in 1990 and 1991 and the good experiences friends have had.

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She said she wasn't warned by Bell Atlantic about its limitations in identifying out-of-area callers, so she assumed she'd get the information on long distance calls as well.

After about two weeks of seeing "unavailable" flash on the display unit every time a long distance call came in, Crowley said she started to worry she had a problem and called the telephone company to find out why.

She said she went in circles for more than a month, talking to various Bell Atlantic employees, long distance companies and other local phone companies, who gave her conflicting answers.

"I was just trying to get answers instead of being kicked around and told, 'Forget it, lady,' " Crowley said.

Bell Atlantic admits Crowley's problem has a foundation in that Hagerstown-area customers are limited in the Caller ID information they can receive, said spokesman Paul Miller.

But the blame lies with AT&T - the dominant long distance carrier in the area - which has "chosen not to interconnect" their information-relaying network with Bell Atlantic's local network, Miller said.

Miller said Bell Atlantic's hands are tied because it can't extend its network outside the regional calling area.

Calls within the Hagerstown regional calling area, including Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties, are guaranteed to show up on the display unless the caller blocks the information, he said.

And long distance calls carried over MCI's and Sprint's networks should include Caller ID information, Miller said.

There are "anomalies" in the Hagerstown area because interconnectivity isn't flawless, said AT&T spokesman Dan Lawler.

However, it isn't because AT&T won't interconnect its caller identification-bearing network to Bell Atlantic's network, Lawler said.

It's not all Bell Atlantic's fault either, he said.

"Apparently, it's an issue both companies are aware of and, hopefully, are working to resolve," Lawler said.

Miller said Crowley should have been told about her Caller ID's limitations when she ordered the service because it's company policy.

Advertisements for the service are generic, so they wouldn't mention the problem, "unique" to the Hagerstown area, Miller said.

Crowley has a few more days to decide whether or not she'll continue with the $7.50-per-month service, which she said seems to have improved a little in the past two weeks.

In that time, she has gotten numbers displayed for two long distance calls - one from Virginia and another from Florida, she said.

If things continue to improve, Crowley said she thinks she might keep the service.

"It's useful as long as I get the information," she said.

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