> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: According to telco there is an
> additional effort involved.
In the 1970s the telcos were under pressure between increased costs
from inflation and regulators who didn't allow rate hikes. They found
that Directory Assistance was a big cost and that customers were
abusing it -- using it for numbers not found in the phone book. Also,
as described, calls for unlisted numbers took up much operator's time.
So instead of a general rate hike, they started more a la carte
charging which the commissions would accept. Some businesses used
Directory Assistance as a free address verification service.
Likewise, long distance directory assistance (NPA+555+1212) used to be
free became charged and now is about a $1/pop with questionable
Note that Bell System rates and policies were not at all uniform
nation wide. Some areas charged for unlisted numbers long before
others did. The various service plans and local calling area sizes
varied from town to town as much as 25%. Philadelphia seemed to have
the lowest rates and most generous terms yet excellent service
quality, how this was managed I don't know. Conversely, NYC seemed to
have high rates yet poor service quality. I think Chicago was in the
middle. [Pat--could a Chicago residence get flat rate service? Did
it cover the whole city or only a portion?]
Almost exactly one hundred years ago (3/23/07, NYT) a citizen asked
that the phone company put in a thumb index in the telephone directory
to speed up searching. (A thumb index is often found in large
dictionaires and consists of an edge cutout to speed finding the pages
of a certain letter.) AFAIK the request was denied. Interesting how
issues haven't changed even over 100 years!
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Chicago had one unit per call, no
matter what the distance was (within Chicago) for many years, as did
all the suburbs. Then someone noticed that none of the suburbs were
anywhere as large or geographically wide spread as the city itself.
For example, from a corner of the city's northwest side, near the
airport but within the city, to 134th Street and Avenue J is a total
distance of 35 miles; all within the same city. On the other hand,
many suburbs were two blocks long and three blocks wide for the entire
town. So, about ten years ago, telco divided up all of 312/773/708/630/847
into 'zones' where the local central office was up to seven or eight
miles away. _That_ then became your 'unlimited calling area' for
one untimed unit; area codes did not matter any longer regards rates.
So many of the suburbs now got three or four little towns surrounding
them as part of their local calling area; living in Chicago, I got
Chicago-Rogers Park, Chicago-Irving, and Chicago-Edgewater as my
'local untimed calling area'. The only people who beefed about that
new arrangement were Chicago-ites of course who suddenly found they
had to pay 'long distance toll rates' to call the other side of the
What got Illinois Bell greviously annoyed was back in the days when
all LD directory assistance was totally free; remember those days?
People with outbound WATS lines (who were charged per minute of
connect time for all calls, including AC-555-1212) and the users of
Sprint/MCI in the early days also had to pay for 555-1212 were told
by their respective supervisors, "if you need to find the correct
number to dial, use your 'regular' phone; learn the number then hang
up and call back using WATS/Sprint/MCI etc. I know at Amoco we were
_forbidden_ to do any 555-1212 calls from our WATS lines. "Use Bell
for 555-1212 because the call is 'free'" is what we were told; "then
use MCI or the WATS line to place the actual call itself. Obviously,
in the early days of DDD, Bell gave directory assistance for free as
a drawing card, fully expecting to get the 'real call' afterward. PAT]