Want to Block Those 976 Calls? Pacific Bell Will Do It

From Associated Press

Pacific Bell will block customer access to all specialized 976 prefix telephone services, including so-called "dial-a-porn" numbers, at the customer's request, the company has announced.

The statewide action follows complaints from parents and consumer groups about sexually explicit adult messages recorded on such programs.

One-Time $2 Charge

The public outcry over unrestricted access to "dial-a-porn" prompted the California Public Utilities Commission to issue an order Dec. 9 requiring Pacific Bell to allow customers to block access to 976 numbers.

Telephone customers will be able to bar 976 access for a one-time $2 service charge, Pacific Bell spokeswoman Charlene Baldwin said Tuesday. She described the move as a "first step to solving the problem of children's access to "dial-a-porn."

Blocking 976 calls requires changing the software program at Pacific Bells' central switching offices, much in the same way that customers can add call-forwarding and call-waiting services, Baldwin said.

A customer who wants to block 976 service should call his local business office, which is listed on each month's telephone bill. "We've been taking orders for the past few days," Baldwin said.

Pacific Bell provides 976 telephone numbers to businesses or groups that provide specialized information services by telephone.

Variety of Services

For example, Baldwin said 44 separate 976 numbers providing state lottery information are available throughout the state. Others provide daily horoscopes, jokes and sports scores.

However, telephone numbers providing sexually explicit material set off sharp protests. Last month, parents were outraged by a pornographic telephone service that had a number that was different from a Santa Claus program by just one digit.

Out of 960 specialized information service programs sold by Bell throughout California, 367, or 38.2%, are recorded adult messages, Baldwin said. Another 96 of the numbers, or 10%, provide "live" adult messages.

As part of its campaign to notify customers of their ability to block 976 calls, Pacific Bell launched a direct-mail campaign to 7 million telephone customers this week. In addition, the utility will purchase multi-language newspaper and radio advertisements.

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