Phone bill changes will hurt seniors

Dear Editor:

I am writing to alert you to Bell Atlantic-New Jersey’s (now Verizon New Jersey Inc.) Alternative Plan of Regulation application pending before the Board of Public Utilities (“Board”) that will have a significant impact on our telephone bills. If the Board implements BA-NJ’s request, we will be required to pay two to three times what they currently pay for local residential telephone service.

Basic residential telephone service currently costs from $5.40 to $8.19 per month. Under BA-NJ’s proposal, the most basic low-use measured service will cost $15 and unlimited local usage will cost $17.50 per month. Customers will be required to purchase 25 minutes of regional toll calling and three vertical services (such as Call Waiting or Call Forwarding) that they may not want, need or use.

Senior citizens and those on fixed or low incomes will be hit hardest by these dramatic increases. Lifeline customers will pay essentially 10 times what they currently pay for basic residential service. I am very concerned that if the Board approves BA-NJ’s plan, telephone service may no longer be affordable for low-and fixed-income ratepayers.

In addition, Bell Atlantic-New Jersey has also requested that the local telephone market in New Jersey be declared competitive, despite the fact that 99 percent of residential customers are BA-NJ’s. If the Board of Public Utilities adopts this proposal, it will no longer have any control over the prices the company charges for residential service and business services or the prices BA-NJ will charge its competitors for routing calls through its system.

But we can help. First, let the Commissioners of the Board of Public Utilities, your state legislators, and the President of Bell Atlantic-New Jersey know that you are concerned about the doubling and tripling of basic service rates and inform your constituents about what the company is proposing so they, too, can make the Board aware of their concerns.

The names and addresses you will need to let Verizon (Bell Atlantic-NJ) and the Board know what you think are:

President Herbert H. Tate
Commissioner Carmen J. Armenti
Commissioner Frederick F. Butler
Board of Public Utilities, Two Gateway Center, Newark, NJ 07102
President Dennis Bone
Verizon New Jersey, Inc.
540 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Vincent J. Barbo
Director of Senior Citizens Program, Hoboken


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