State to cut phone surcharge for relay service by 6 cents

September 08, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

It's just 6 cents a month, but the state government's going to be taking a little less out of your pocket.

The Schaefer administration announced yesterday that the monthly fee Maryland phone subscribers pay to support a service that provides telephone links for hearing- and speech-impaired people will fall from 21 cents to 15 cents as of October.

The surcharge, which appears on Marylanders' monthly phone bills, is reviewed annually and adjusted to reflect the costs of running the Maryland Relay System.

The fee, which started at 45 cents a month, can be lowered because call handling has become more efficient and calls through the system have become shorter.

Martin W. Walsh Jr., secretary of the Department of General Services, said the cost per call has fallen from $1.49 to 78 cents in the past year. Callers and operators are becoming more proficient at using the system, said Dave Humphrey, a department spokesman.

At the same time, the number of calls handled has increased since the service was instituted in December 1991 from 42,000 a month to 170,000 a month.

According to the General Services Department, that makes Maryland's relay service the most heavily used system in the country on a per-capita basis. Only California, New York and Texas have systems that handle a greater number, the department said.

Local calls through the system are free, and long-distance callers get a discounted rate.

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