Long-Distance Snafu Catches MCI Chairman : Phone at Summer House Connected to GTE-Sprint

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Associated Press

Someone at the phone company made the wrong choice. And they picked the wrong guy.

William G. McGowan, chairman of MCI Communications, the big long-distance company, has just been told the phone at his summer home has been connected to archrival GTE-Sprint.

Like most Americans, McGowan was asked to choose a long-distance telephone company as part of the nationwide program to give customers freedom of choice as to their preferred long-distance carrier. Customers who don’t make a selection are then randomly assigned a long-distance service.

GTE says the computer allocated McGowan’s number to GTE-Sprint.

Sent Last December

John Ridgeway, area manager for Continental Telephone, the local phone company at Virginia Beach, Va., that made the connection, checked the records at MCI’s request and confirmed that ballots were returned for both of McGowan’s lines way back last December


“If a mistake was made, all a person has to do is call us and we’ll fix it,” said Wade King, a spokesman for ConTel.

Apparently, when the Sprint notice arrived at McGowan’s office, there was a flurry of activity to get it fixed.

A GTE spokesman said McGowan’s secretary called the secretary of Sprint President Donald Prigmore to find out what was going on.

“Three ConTel people are working on it now,” MCI spokesman Gary Tobin said. “You can just imagine what confusion the public is going through.”

The balloting process, which requires telephone customers in neighborhoods served by sophisticated electronic switches to select a long-distance company, will be substantially complete by the end of the summer.

After that, most people will be able to sign up for a primary long-distance company at the same time that they order phone service.