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Hagerstown won't get Call 54 service

June 04, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Hagerstown-area telephone customers won't be able to use Bell Atlantic's new Call 54 reverse directory service, which was approved Wednesday by the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Unless local residents specifically request their names and addresses be withheld, however, that information will be available to customers in other parts of the state with access to Call 54, said Bell Atlantic spokeswoman Sandra Arnette.

Call 54 works like this: Customers dial their own area codes plus 555-5454, give the operator a telephone number and receive the name and address on file for that number.

For a 75-cent charge, customers will be able to get information for up to three telephone numbers, according to the Public Service Commission tariff filing.

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Bell Atlantic plans to start offering the service - already available in the Charleston, W.Va., metropolitan area - next week in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore calling areas, said Bell Atlantic spokesman Jim Smith.

Those areas have the databases needed to offer the service, Arnette said.

Until calling area boundary issues are resolved, customers in the Western Maryland and Eastern Shore calling areas won't be offered the service, she said.

Arnette said she doesn't know when it will be offered in those areas.

Meanwhile, information on those customers will be available through the service unless they have an unpublished number or request it be removed from the database, she said.

The database would provide the customer's name and address as listed in the telephone directory, Arnette said.

Customers can "opt out" any time for free by calling their local business office, she said.

Approval of the service was delayed a week because of privacy concerns voiced by the Maryland People's Counsel, a watchdog agency for consumer interests, said Public Service Commission spokeswoman Chrys Wilson.

Although reverse directories are available in libraries and on the Internet, consumers have complained that the Public Service Commission shouldn't make it easier for people to obtain others' private information, said Assistant Maryland People's Counsel John Sayles.

The agency didn't oppose approval of the service because its role is to represent all consumers, some of whom want the service, Sayles said.

The agency wants people to be continually reminded the service exists and that they can make their information private, he said.

The decision to offer the service in Maryland was based on its popularity in New Jersey, where Bell Atlantic has offered the service since 1995, Arnette said.

Possible uses include figuring out the reason you jotted down a number, updating card lists and verifying employment information, she said.

About 5 percent of Maryland customers have requested their information be stricken from the database since the service was publicized in fall 1997, Arnette said.

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