C&P; seeks rehearing on Caller ID ruling


Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. has asked the Public Service Commission to reconsider last month's decision that requires C&P; to offer free blocking to anyone in Maryland who wants to prevent his number from being detected by the Caller ID device.

The commission's conclusion "ignores Caller ID's proven benefits and the impact that blocking would have, not only on Caller ID subscribers, but on customers in general," C&P; said in a Nov. 30 filing submitted to the PSC.

C&P; accused the commission of "relying on facts not in evidence" in arriving at its Nov. 20 decision, which was reached after a nearly yearlong review by legislators, regulators and consumer groups in Maryland.

The commission's plan currently calls for C&P; to provide free blocking on a "per-call" basis to all phone customers in Maryland.

Under the commission's plan, people could punch in a code number before placing a call. That would transmit a "P" or "private" instead of their number to a Caller ID device.

The commission said its plan would meet the needs of people on both ends of the phone: Parties being called parties would still be alerted when an unfamiliar call was coming in, and calling parties could maintain their confidentiality when desired.

The commission's Nov. 20 decision contained no date by which C&P; had to start offering blocking. But Frank Fulton, a PSC spokesman, said yesterday that the commission probably will give C&P; such a date if the company's request is turned down.

A decision on C&P;'s request probably will be made within a few weeks, he said.

If a rehearing is not granted, C&P; stands "ready to proceed" with implementing per-call block, Al Burman, a C&P; spokesman, said yesterday.

Mr. Burman said he could not rule out the possibility that C&P; might appeal to the courts if its request is turned down by the commission.

But once the company decides to proceed, he said, C&P; could have per-call block in place within about 45 days.

C&P; has sold Caller ID as a way to cut down on harassing, threatening and obscene calls to more than 35,000 people in Maryland.

Residential subscribers currently pay a monthly fee of $6.50 per line to use the service, which, together with an $80 Caller ID device, displays the number of incoming calls. Numbers are transmitted automatically without the consent or knowledge of callers.

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