Playing It By The Numbers

By Calendar Hacksaw

Well, folks; time for ol' Calendar to go on a rant. Again.

So if you're lookin' for some folksy, homespun humor or words of wisdom, I'd suggest that you mosey on over to Wayne Moody's column on page 13 or 15 or wherever the Zanuttos decided to hide the sucker this month. One thing's for sure: you ain't gonna find it here.

"So, what's ol' Hacksaw ticked-off about this time?" you might ask. Good question; deserves a good answer. Well, here it is.

I'm livid about telephone service. We're turnin' into a Third World country faster than I ever thought possible.

First on my list of telecommunications gripes is Pacific Bell's greedy attempt to rake in millions more every year from our casual use of Directory Assistance, better known as "4-1-1." According to published reports, ol' Pac Bell wants to jack-up the price of "Information" calls from the current two-bits, to a whoppin' four-bits, as if droppin' a quarter to get your new neighbor's phone number isn't bad enough as is. How old do you have to be in order to remember when 4-1-1 calls were free, unlimited, and the good-natured operator would guide you through puberty if you asked politely? And what good is it to have a listed telephone number if people have to pay money to find out what it is?

To make matters worse, far worse, The Phone Company also wants to raise the "ceiling rate" for those 4-1-1 calls to $1.10 each, or almost the price of a beer, while simultaneously reducing our monthly residential "free call allowance" from five calls to three.

Does that surprise anyone?

Nope. Ever since Texas-based SBC Communications took over Pacific Bell, they've tried every imaginable way to empty our wallets and ship those greenbacks to San Antonio. What they plan to do back there with all our hard-earned cash is anyone's guess, but I think we owe it to ourselves to put up a little fight for the money. After all, we used to have a nice, friendly little phone company in these parts, and even though they didn't give us everything we wanted, needed or dreamed of, they didn't gouge us either. Some of our friends actually worked for the phone company--some still do--but those who remain aren't any happier about this SBC mind set than I am.

The California Public Utilities Commission, a "secret society" which operates a modern-day commune in the depraved, perverted depths of San Francisco, has ordered a series of Public Participation Hearings to see how you and I feel about the proposed Pac Bell price hike. But knowing how "contentious" such meetings can become when held in the Twin Oaks-Budweiser Team Penning Arena, they wisely chose Fresno and Los Angeles as the collection points for southern San Joaquin Valley testimony. So if you're not doing anything on November 17th, you can drop by the Ted C. Wills Community Center, 770 North San Pablo Avenue in Fresno, and hear what others have to say; maybe lend your own two-cents worth to the fracas. In Los Angeles County, the session will be held in the Pasadena City Council Chambers, 100 North Garfield Avenue, on November 24. The fun begins at 7:00 p.m. in both locations, so invite your friends and relatives, and bring your farm animals as well so the corporate attorneys and economists won't feel alone or out of place. The more the merrier. And if you're not up to the trip, feel free to address your comments to the Public Advisor, CPUC, 505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 90241. And give 'em both barrels on this one, sisters.

* * *

Now just what the hell is it with these "roaming" charges that Bakersfield Cellular hits me with every time I make the mistake of using my L.A. Cellular phone while roamin' through the Piutes? Well, first of all, I've stopped using the dang thing entirely because of the charges, so Bakersfield Cellular isn't making any money off me at all any more, as well it should be, and that's the way it's gonna stay 'til things change. Any of you other 5,000 weekenders feel the same way? Good; join the club, and just say "NO!" to Bakersfield Cellular's roaming charges until they realize that we're not just tourists passin' through, and we're no longer willing to be soaked. I'll be looking for their apologetic announcement in The Fence Post next month. I've heard that Kern County's wireless penetration rates (unrelated to the White House scandal) are so low that the cellular company has been known to swap activation fees for a pick-up load of carrots.

* * *

Hey, and what's the deal with the two pay phones I use in Twin Oaks? They use two different long distance carriers, which is alright I guess, except one is a "mainstream" provider that easily handles my calling card and collect calls, while the other uses some start-up "Merle an' Ed" kind of company that makes me access an 800-number before I can even start making my call. Sure, it's nice to have some competition, but as soon as one phone breaks down we're right back to a monopoly again. And holy cow; look at my phone bill after using "Merle an' Ed!"

* * *

Along the way, I've talked to a few people who live up Piute Mountain Road and have no phone service at all, because Pacific Bell doesn't have any poles up there. I think Piute Mountain Road should have phone service all the way to Claraville. Heck, there's phone poles all the way up to the top of Franceschi Grade and beyond, and that's a private road! So what's gonna happen? I'll tell you: some forward-thinking "wireless local loop" provider is gonna come along and steal all those potential customers from Pac Bell, and never look back. Then residents of Twin Oaks, Loraine, Back Canyon, Thompson Canyon, Walker Basin and elsewhere will start discovering that they have options, and exercising those options. Suddenly, that fiber optic leg that Pac Bell ran from the microwave station over to Handy Corner will become nothing more than excess capacity as subscribers switch over to the new wireless provider.

Will SBC/Pacific Bell react? Yep; and as always, too late. Apparently they're saving their telephone poles for something more important: Texas toothpicks.

Where's Oklahoma Bell when we need them?

Calendar Hacksaw's e-mail addresses are <> and <> and he'd love to hear from you. He bought Caller ID, Caller ID Blocking, Anonymous Call Rejection, and now can't use his phone at all. That's just the way it oughta be, and he owes it all to SBC.

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