The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. has introduced a service that would allow customers to convert their home phones to business phones while keeping many of the features of residential service.
The new feature, called Home Business Service, could be used by an estimated 225,000 Maryland customers who operate businesses from their homes but who do not have business listings. "We're trying to help the people who are running businesses out of their homes," said C&P spokeswoman Jeanine Smetana.
The service is similar to another C&P service called Identa*Ring, fTC which allows a single line to share two telephone numbers, each with a different ringing pattern. Under Home Business Service, the residential number would keep its normal ring, while the business number would be identified by two short rings.
Home Business Service customers would have the business number listed in C&P's business directory and the yellow pages. They would also be able to buy additional advertisements in the yellow pages, Smetana said. Customers would purchase additional optional services at residential rates.
Until now C&P customers had to choose either a residential or business listing. Those home businesses that wanted to be listed in the yellow pages had to pay for a separate business line in addition to their residential phone.
Cynthia S. Merritt of Ellicott City has found the new service helpful in her new business of planning private parties and weddings, called Merritt Planning. "It's a good idea for people who want to operate a business at home," she said. Merritt particularly likes the feature of the different ringing sequence, which allows her to answer business calls differently from her personal calls.
The cost of the service is about comparable to her former residential service, Merritt said.
But the head of an organization representing home-based businesses is concerned about the new service and urges those businesses to get a separate business line even if it costs a little more. "I have grave reservations about it," said Rudy Lewis, president of the National Association of Home Based Businesses, based in Owings Mills.
Lewis' organization has stressed to home businesses that they should keep their business and personal activities separate. "Either you are in business or you're not," he said. Using the same line for business and personal purposes can also lead to confusion over what exactly are business expenses, which is important when preparing income tax returns. "When you are mixing your residential along with business, how do you sort it out?" he said.
C&P started offering the service on a trial basis statewide basis last week.
The base rate for the new service is $10.86 a month in metropolitan areas and $12.76 in non-metropolitan areas. Customers must also pay for their outgoing phone calls and must buy one of three monthly packages of phone calls. This additional cost is $8 for 90 outgoing calls, $12 for 170 calls, and $20 for 340 calls. Beyond those allowances, the customer pays 9 cents for each additional outgoing call. There is a one-time $30 service charge for connecting the service.