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Local phone company may be Bell-ringer

July 27, 1999

He doesn't know it yet, but I have a new bestest buddy and his name is Clint Wiley.

Wiley is a Hagerstown businessman who runs New Frontiers Internet Services and now, more importantly, New Frontiers Telecommunications.

That's right, Wiley is starting his own phone company. Not the type of thing we're used to thinking of as a start-up type cottage industry, but hey, we live in a new age.

Don't be surprised if in the next couple of years you start reading about some chap who is running a power company out of his garage.

New Frontiers is going cheek-to-jowl up against Bell Atlantic, or Hell Atlantic as it is warmly known to a number of its customers (Before the days of online banking, that's how I used to make out my checks. If any third-level billing clerk ever got the joke, I cannot say.).

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Bell Atlantic has been on my enemies list ever since it decided that everyone in Western Maryland would have to dial 10 digits to complete a local call.

That decision was made back when Bell Atlantic had no competition, when they were free to stomp all over their customers without fear of us changing brands. Like Jefferson County sage Henry Morrow said when the operator thanked him for using AT&T: "You needn't thank me, madam, for I haven't a choice."

But those were the days B.C.

Before Clint.

Apparently there won't be any change in service between Bell Atlantic and New Frontiers, but even if there were I would switch. I don't care if I have to climb to the top of a utility pole to use the phone like Oliver Douglas in "Green Acres."

Actually, it's hard to see how any service could be worse than Bell Atlantic's. Does this happen to you? You have a local, 10-digit number programmed into your speed dial, but when you use the speed dial feature you are connected to AT&T because the equipment thinks you're trying to make a long-distance call.

And I notice the phone companies are getting around PSC rate control by raising fees on services such as directory assistance or *69. They just wait for you to commit an overt act with the keypad that they can charge you for.

The government does this, too. It says, "For the 10th consecutive year we have managed to keep taxes at the same rate. Oh, but you will now have to pay a $27 fee for flushing your toilet."

As a bonus, the alternative phone service will finally offer us some meaningful Internet speed upgrades through DSLs. DSLs are phone lines that, as I understand it, have a lot of grease on them so the information slides along the wire at a much higher speed. Sometimes this information gets moving so fast it rams into slower information, which is why sometimes your home computer needs more RAM so it can sort all this information out.

Anyway, Bell Atlantic has been promising DSL technology since about the time Noah laid the keel - or about two weeks after the cable company began promising us high-speed Internet links over the same lines that bring us quality programing like Friday night female roller derby on TNN.

So not only, come November or December, will we be able to ditch Bell, we will actually be able to download pictures of naked chi... I mean we will be able to download all the latest Encyclopedia Britannica updates on rainforest depletion in less time than it takes to build an internal combustion engine from scratch.

So Clint, friend, giver of hope, I salute you. And if I could just put in one small request? For your next project, how about establishing a New Frontiers Grocery Store chain that doesn't take checks and electrocutes people who abuse the express aisles?




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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