WASHINGTON -- Baltimore and Washington may not be a long distance apart on the map, but placing a phone call between the two cities has always required paying long-distance fees.
A Maryland telecommunications company announced yesterday that it is planning to change that, at least for businesses.
Officials of American Communications Services Inc. said at a news conference that they are filing with the Maryland Public Service Commission for permission to offer "Corridor Calling," a new service that would enable customers to place calls anywhere in the Baltimore-Washington region at a local rate of 8.5 cents per call, with no limit on the duration of the call.
"The significance of this lies in the recognition that there are ways other than the traditional ways to offer service," said Jack E. Reich, ACSI's president and chief executive officer.
Citing economic efficiency reasons, Reich said ACSI would offer the service primarily to business customers at first. The company would use its fiber-optic network to carry the calls.
ACSI spokesman James B. Crawford said the company would charge a "nominal" monthly fee for the service in addition to the 8.5 cents per call. He said the precise fee has not been determined.
ACSI attorney Riley M. Murphy said the company hopes to win the PSC's blessing within a month, though the approval process may take longer if the commission includes ACSI's application in a broader inquiry into the state's local telephone industry.
"We think this service is in the consumers' best interest," Murphysaid. "This really is blurring the distinction between local and long-distance calling."
Bell Atlantic, the dominant provider of local phone service in Maryland, is legally barred from offering the kind of service ACSI now seeks to provide. It and the other so-called "Baby Bell" companies that emerged from the breakup of AT&T may not serve traditional long-distance routes in states where they also provide local service. The only way the Baby Bells can shake free of this proscription is to pass a rigorous 14-point test set out in the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
ACSI also announced that it has agreed to extend its fiber telecommunications network to 52 commercial properties owned by Manekin Corp., a real estate company based in Baltimore.
According to Manekin officials, the 52 buildings affected by the agreement are at the Commons Corporate Center in Hanover and at four locations in Columbia: Gateway Corporate Park, Oakland Ridge Industrial Center, Rivers Corporate Center and Columbia Business Center.
ACSI is paying Manekin for access to the buildings. Neither ACSI nor Manekin would discuss the financial details of the agreement. The services will be optional for tenants. ACSI said its sales efforts will begin immediately.
Manekin officials said the deal with ACSI would offer tenants a local phone service alternative to Bell Atlantic and greater capacity for voice and data transmission.
"This is where the future is," said Donald Manekin, the company's senior vice president. "We're trying to offer our customers additional services they may not have already. We're always thinking of ways to differentiate ourselves in the market."
Pub Date: 12/17/97