Bell Atlantic-Maryland yielded to the power of the Internet yesterday and withdrew a proposed rate structure for high-speed digital phone service to homes after an outcry from computer-using potential customers.
In a letter delivered yesterday to the state Public Service Commission, the telephone company said it would instead continue to offer Integrated Services Digital Network to residential customers as part of a trial it previously had wanted to cut short.
Last month, Bell Atlantic proposed a tariff of $19.50 per month, in addition to the regular line-rate charge, and either 2 cents a minute for peak period usage or 1 cent a minute for nights and weekends.
Internet users, who are interested in ISDN because it offers connections to the worldwide computer network about five times faster than a high-end computer modem, flooded the PSC with (( protests because the proposed tariff failed to provide an option for flat-rate service.
At a hearing two weeks ago, Bell Atlantic stood firmly in favor of a metered rate, insisting that a flat rate would lead to abuse of the telephone network by people who want to keep their ISDN lines open around the clock. But yesterday, spokesman Eric Rabe sounded a conciliatory note.
"We heard loud and clear that people are interested in an alternative to a measured-use option," said Mr. Rabe. He said he couldn't confirm a report in the Washington Post that a flat rate for residential ISDN would probably cost about $65, labeling the estimate "speculative."
The withdrawal was hailed by consumer advocates and their allies in the Internet service provider industry.
"This is really a huge victory for the consumer in Maryland," said James Love, director of the Washington-based Consumer Project and Technology.