Off the Hook

How the breakup is helping AT&T—at your expense.

  1. My phones aren't working properly. Last year I could have made one call to an evil, bloated monopoly, and they would have been fixed promptly at no charge. This year C&P Telephone told me I might have defective "customer premises equipment"—the phones themselves—which is no longer C&P's problem. A serviceman would be sent only after the phones had been checked. (Pardon me, Captain Yossarian.) So I called AT&T Information Systems, from which one of my phones is leased, and was told I'd have to transport the suspect C.P.E. to a Phone Center Store myself. Or I could mail it in at my own expense, and they would send a replacement—er, well—eventually. (By the way, you can't order phones over the phone. Thousands of businesses offer fingers-do-the-walking telephone shopping, but AT&T requires you go to a Phone Center Store in person.) Unless the defect is in my other phone, which was purchased from ITT. Since the warranty on my ITT model expired approximately as I was opening the box, I might as well buy a new one, which would cost about the same as getting the old one (which may or may not be broken) repaired. So...once I invest $49.95 (I like the sturdy kind of phone you can slam down after someone refuses to talk to you) and an entire day of driving around town, C&P Telephone will send a serviceman to see why my calls aren't getting through—for $55 and hour.

    Isn't it wonderful how they broke up Ma Bell to help the consumer?

    And think of the money I'm saving! My basic phone ser...