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Bell Atlantic offers tracking service

January 02, 1998

Bell Atlantic offers tracking service

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Bell Atlantic customers in Maryland and West Virginia might be able to track who calls them within their state by February using directory assistance, a spokeswoman said.

Customers could call armed only with a phone number and receive the information listed in the Bell Atlantic phone book for that person or business, said spokeswoman Sandra Arnette.

That information can include the name and address for the phone number, if it's listed in the phone book, Arnette said.

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If a customer's phone number is unlisted, the name and address are not available, she said.

The company still needs to get approval from the Maryland and West Virginia public service commissions to provide the service and charge customers for it, Arnette said.

Bell Atlantic only offers the service in New Jersey now, she said. There are no immediate plans to offer it in Pennsylvania, she said.

Customers would be charged each time they use the service. A user charge has not been determined, Arnette said. In New Jersey the charge is 50 cents per call and three phone numbers can be checked per call, she said.

The service only works within the user's state and is available only to customers with touch tone phones because it is automated, Arnette said.

The reverse directory service is not new, Arnette said.

It has been provided on the Internet, CD-ROMs and through print directories by various companies for years, she said. While those services only update their information on a yearly basis, Bell Atlantic does daily updates.

The service can be used to update office telephone lists, get correct addresses for greeting cards and check billing records to see to whom a call was placed, Arnette said.

"We understand that there are privacy concerns," Arnette said.

The service cannot be used to find some social services, such as shelters for battered women, she said.

Customers who do not want people to be able to track their phone numbers can call Bell Atlantic and have their number blocked any time for free, she said.

Until Feb. 7, Maryland customers can call 1-888-579-0323 and West Virginia customers can call 1-888-510-4038 to have their phone numbers blocked, Arnette said.

After Feb. 7, customers can call their local Bell Atlantic business office.

Once enacted, customers can use the service - known as Call 54 - by calling the area code and then 555-5454, she said.

Customers also can block the use of Call 54 reverse directory from their home so teenagers or other family members don't run up the phone bill using it, she said.

To block the use of Call 54 from the home, call the local Bell Atlantic business office, she said. There is no charge for the block, she said.

Maryland customers who want to comment on whether they think the Maryland Public Service Commission should approve the new service can write to either John Sayles or Terri Czarski, Assistant People's Counsel, 6 St. Paul St., Suite 2102, Baltimore, Md. 21202.

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