New price change will keep phones ringing

by Ithan Peltan | 11/20/00 6:00am

Upcoming changes in the pricing structure administered by Telephone Services are going to be good for students' long distance bills but perhaps not so good for the bills paid by administrative departments.

Plans have not yet been finalized, but Director of Fiscal and Auxilliary Services for Computing Services Betsy McClain said she hopes to see the long distance rates fall to a flat, $0.07-per-minute within the next couple of months.

In addition, DarTalk users making international calls will begin paying just 25 percent of AT&T's published list rates -- down from 50 percent -- effective Jan. 1.

"If we're not competitive, we're not going to be in business in terms of providing long distance service," McClain said, noting the increasing popularity of cut-rate phone cards and other plans that lure away potential DarTalk users.

However, since campus phone charges are based on an overall revenue package with two income sources, a long distance fee and a flat rate, the lower long distance rates will be accompanied by an increase in the amount that Telephone Services charges to provide the phone line itself.

"In the past, what held that system together was a significant markup of our long distance rates," McClain said. "It's just a much more competitive market now and so we can't recover our costs by marking up our permanent long distance charge."

As the College works to remain a viable provider of long distance services, McClain said Telephone Services will have to be "more realistic" about what it costs to bring a dial tone to a given phone.

What that means is the flat rate charged for a phone line -- currently $8 per month for administrative departments -- is going to go up, perhaps as high as $15 per month.

In the dorms, that flat rate is paid by Operations and Residential Life, so students will not see anything but a decrease in the amount they pay for phone use.

For ORL, however, Dean of Residential Life Marty Redman estimated the increase in flat rates will cost as much as $500,000.

The changes in the pricing structure are designed to be revenue neutral overall.

If the flat rate does go up $7, however, administrative DarTalk users paying both the flat rate and the long distance fee will have to spend about 240 minutes per month making long distance calls in order for their phone bills to remain about the same.

McClain said she hopes to see a number of other changes in the next calendar year, including the introduction of a variety of calling plans for students to select from and the institution of "phone-per-pillow" in student dorm rooms.