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Cell Phone Calls Soon to Have New Long Distance Charges

Cell Phone Calls Soon to Have New Long Distance Charges

Posted - Sep. 5, 2003 at 10:26 p.m.



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Kim Johnson reporting Cell Phone technology, is rapidly changing. And, while most of the changes benefit customers, there's one, big downside.

Here it is: A call you make from a regular phone to a cell phone -- that used to cost you nothing -- could now rack up a long distance charge.

Brad Carver says he was shocked to learn, that all the sudden, he had to call long distance to reach his daughter's cell phone, especially when they both live in the same metro area. He in West Jordan, and she in Bountiful.

Brad Carver, confused customer: "THEY LIKE IT FOR THE CONVENIENCE, BUT IT'S GETTING COST PROHIBITIVE TO CALL THEM EVERY TIME I JUST WANT TO TALK."

Even though his daughter lives in Bountiful, her cell phone prefix shows up as a Kaysville number. While Bountiful is not long distance from Carver's West Jordan home, Kaysville is.

But until recently, Carver never had this problem. He and all the rest of us never used to incur toll charges when we called cell phones from our landlines..regardless of our local calling areas.

Those calls were never free, exactly. They were being paid for by the Wireless companies. But competition is changing that.

Kim Johnson: "HERE'S WHY: THE GOVERNMENT SAYS BY NOVEMBER 24TH, WIRELESS COMPANIES HAVE TO LET YOU, THE CUSTOMER, CHOOSE YOUR CARRIER..BE ABLE TO SWITCH, LET'S SAY, FROM AT@T TO SPRINT, AND AT THE SAME TIME KEEP YOU SAME CELL PHONE NUMBER."

It's known in the industry as cell number portability.

Ingo Henningsen, Division of Public Utilities: "THE CUSTOMERS CLEARLY BENEFIT FROM BEING ABLE TO KEEP THEIR NUMBER, HOWEVER IT HAS A COST TO IT BECAUSE IT COMPLICATES THE NUMBERING SYSTEM."

The numbering system used to allow Wireless Companies to buy what's known as "wide area calling" from land line companies. You didn't get charged for landline to cell calls....because the cell customer's carrier was picking up the tab

The system worked well for landline companies, like Qwest, because it could recognize that a certain prefix on a cell number belonged to a customer from, Sprint, let's say, who lived in Provo.

Ingo Henningsen: "BUT AS CUSTOMERS ARE NOW ABLE TO MOVE AROUND, AND CARRY THOSE NUMBERS WITH THEM. THAT TRACKING SYSTEM NO LONGER WORKS."

In fact, phone companies say they don't have the technology for a tracking system that can keep up with customers who will be able to change their carriers at will.

Call it convenience, but one coming at a price.

Wireless companies are sending customers notices of these changes. If you have questions, call your landline company to clarify where your local calling area is... and what the charges will be if you call cell phones outside that area.

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