Thursday, August 02, 2001

Lebanon getting local phone aid

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A telephone call from here to Cincinnati or Dayton is long-distance, a fact that's a constant source of aggravation and expense to local residents and businesses.

        Alma Boggs, 61, has two children in the Dayton area, but on the phone with them, “I make it short, because I know it's costing me.”

        Help is on the way — from both her city government and current phone provider Sprint.

   City: $28 a month for basic service. Extended local calling area would go from northern Dayton south to Northern Kentucky and west to southeastern Indiana.
   Sprint: $16.50 a month for basic service. Extended local calling area would include Dayton and Cincinnati but none of Kentucky or Indiana.
        The city is in final negotiations with Cincinnati Bell to put the “tele” in its telecommunications department, officials said late Tuesday. The 2-year-old system now provides only cable TV and high- speed Internet access, but can be expanded to carry other data over its fiber-optic lines.

        Sprint, meanwhile, is offering to make the Lebanon-to-Cincinnati and Lebanon-to-Dayton connections local as part of a statewide expansion of 522 such “routes,” spokeswoman Stephanie Meisse said. Customers will vote on the proposal — which would add $1 to their monthly bills — in September.

        The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in early 2001 ordered Sprint and three other providers to lower their fees, and this is Sprint's plan for complying, a PUCO spokeswoman said.

        Both plans could be up and running by the end of the year, according to the respective providers. Right now, it appears the city service would cost more but cover a larger area.

        “It's still our opinion that we'll beat them on service,” Councilman Mark Flick said.

        Ms. Boggs said she'll need to study the details of both plans before deciding which provider suits her.

        Lebanon City Manager James Patrick told the finance committee Tuesday that he expects to finish the phone contract within about a week and present it to a City Council work session in two weeks. The city expects to get 40 percent of the revenue.

        In addition to helping residents, Mr. Flick said, that'll help bring the city's $10 million-plus telecommunications system into the black. Higher than expected costs — more than double early projections — have weighed down the city's bottom line.


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