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REGION Sprint users to vote on change



Published: Fri, June 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The change would provide new toll-free calls for a number of area communities.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- Many Sprint customers in the Mahoning Valley will be voting on a phone company plan that will raise their monthly rate but give them an expanded local calling area.

A ballot and a letter explaining the changes will be mailed later this summer by Sprint, which provides local phone service for much of Trumbull County and part of Mahoning County.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved a plan Thursday that calls for eliminating toll charges on 522 calling routes in Ohio. The routes either are local toll routes or extended local call routes for which per-minute tolls are charged.

Customers in about 80 percent of those routes will be asked to vote on the changes because their basic monthly bill would increase between 45 cents and $1.10. No change will be made if a majority of votes are against it.

What's behind cost: The additional cost comes because of the increased size of the local calling area. Sprint charges more to customers who have larger local calling areas, said Stephanie Meisse, a Sprint spokeswoman.

Warren customers, for example, will be asked to approve a rate increase of $1.10. In exchange, they would be able to call eight more communities toll free, including Girard, Hubbard and Youngstown.

Based on what the company has heard from Warren customers, Sprint is confident the change will be approved, Meisse said.

As this change is made, Sprint also is adding a new fee for all customers in July.

Addition: The fee will be $4.10 for residential customers, $6 for single-line business customers and $8.90 for multiline business customers.

The new fee is called an intrastate access fee and is needed because of a PUCO order that reduces intrastate access fees charged by local phone companies to long-distance companies, Sprint said.

These fees have been used by local phone companies to reduce the cost of providing service.

The PUCO order requires long-distance companies to pass their savings from the reduction of access fees to customers in the form of reduced rates for in-state calls.




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