Some Pacific Bell telephone customers may be mildly surprised when they open this month's mail and find a higher phone bill. The reason is that some local telephone calls that once were free for many residents now carry pay-per-minute rates.
The rate change, which went into effect March 1, was made to lower rates for San Clemente area customers, said Steve Gould, Pacific Bell spokesman.
"Some customers in the San Clemente area were paying toll rates for calls made to only El Toro or Irvine. They were being penalized for their geographic location," Gould said. "So we reshaped local zones to even things out."
Gould said the company increased the size of San Clemente's local calling area, and created three zones, which extend concentrically outward from the middle of each calling area. Besides the San Clemente area, there are 13 other calling areas in Orange County.
Since March 1, calls made within Zone 1, which extends eight miles from the middle of each calling area, cost customers four cents for the first minute and one cent for every minute thereafter. In Zone 2, which extends nine to 12 miles outward, calls cost eight cents for the first minute, three cents for every minute thereafter. In Zone 3, which extends 13 to 16 miles outward, calls cost 10 cents for the first minute, five cents for every minute thereafter.
San Clemente callers got a break because Pacific Bell said that calls to adjacent calling areas, regardless of the distance between them, are now considered Zone 1 calls, Gould said.
How these changes will affect phone customers outside the San Clemente area will vary, depending on a customer's type of local service, Gould said.