Phone Service Unchanged, 68% Tell Survey

Times Staff Writer

Two out of three telephone customers believe that the breakup of AT&T; has not affected the quality of local phone service, a new nationwide survey of residential telephone users released Wednesday shows.

The survey, conducted by the Gallup Organization for the U.S. Telephone Assn., also found that only one in five customers changed their telephone service in the last year.

At the same time, many of the 1,200 households surveyed said they still do not understand the breakup of the Bell System, the new monthly subscriber-line charges and such issues as the ability to bypass local telephone facilities with networks that specialize in long-distance service.

Of those surveyed, the results showed that:

- On local phone service, 66% rated the quality the same as before divestiture; 18% said service is better; 14% called it worse, and 2% had no opinion. Those who complained about declining service cited poorer connections, more service interruptions and more trouble getting a dial tone.

- On basic local phone service, 44% said that the pricing is about right; 33% called it somewhat expensive; 16% said it is very expensive; 5% termed it inexpensive, and 2% had no opinion.

- Twenty-eight percent said they do not understand their phone bills, citing an increased number of pages, more itemized charges and separate listings of local charges.

In addition, 93% of those surveyed said they know that they can own their phones, and 93% said they are aware that they can choose among different long-distance companies.

However, only 52% said they were aware of the new $1 monthly subscriber-line charge, which was imposed in June to help companies meet the costs of providing local service. Previously, local costs were subsidized by long-distance revenue.

"We believe the survey results support our opinion that high-quality local service has been maintained, if not improved, since divestiture," said John Sodolski, president of the telephone association, which financed the poll. He called the study the first scientific, nationwide survey of residential phone users since the AT&T; divestiture took effect in January, 1984.

The association represents 1,100 local telephone companies across the nation, including the independent regional Bell companies created by the breakup of AT&T.;

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