People who don't like the idea of their phone numbers, unpublished or not, showing up on Caller ID devices across the state will get some relief starting Sunday in the form of free blocking.
In keeping with last month's order from the Public Service Commission, C&P Telephone Co. plans to start offering free, per-call blocking on Sunday, said commission spokesman Frank Fulton.
Touch-tone phone users need only dial a three-digit code -- star, 6,7 -- before placing a call to ensure that their telephone number doesn't pop up on a Caller ID device, which is used in connection with C&P's Caller ID service. For rotary phones, the code is 1,1,6,7.
When the code is dialed, a "P" or "Private" will show up on the Caller ID device instead of a number.
People who want to make sure their numbers aren't revealed will have to dial the code every time they make a call.
C&P had resisted offering free blocking in Maryland, claiming it would undercut the value of the service.
Philadelphia-based Bell Atlantic Corp., C&P's parent company, has heavily marketed Caller ID as a service that can help cut down on harassing or threatening phone calls.
C&P appealed the commission's order in November calling for it to provide free blocking. That appeal was turned down in December, when the commission gave C&P 45 days in which to start offering blocking. C&P's deadline expires on Sunday.
According to Mr. Fulton, C&P made an 11th hour appeal to get the deadline extended. C&P claimed Caller ID might be helpful in deterring terrorist threats, such as bomb threats, as a result of the Persian Gulf war, he said.
That view was not shared by the commission, which noted Caller ID isn't available statewide. It also said there are other ways to track down those kinds of calls. That would includes Call Trace, a C&P service that automatically traces calls when users dial "star, 5, 7."
"C&P, the schools and the police respond very quickly to those kinds of calls," said Mr. Fulton, referring to bomb threats and sundry other terrorist threats that may be relayed by phone. "The commission didn't see where Caller ID would be that effective in those kinds of cases."