Charges for Long Distance Calls Will Decrease

New MCI Contract Will Pay Off By October

Harvard students should be seeing a substantial decrease in their long distance telephone bills as early as next month, student telephone officials said yesterday.

The drop in rates is a result of the telephone office's summer contract renegotiation with MCI--Harvard's long distance provider-said Coordinator of Student Telephone Service Robert E. Grenier.

The new plan will save telephone users a total of $350,000 a year.

Student telephone officials are still determining how the savings will be distributed, Grenier said. But telephone officials said the savings may mean the installation of an evening flat rate as low as 11 cents a minute to anywhere in the country.

Currently, Harvard bases its long distance rates on the distance and the hour of the call. For instance, a minute of calling time to New York costs 26 cents during the day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), 16 cents during the evening (5 p.m. to 11 p.m.) and 12 cents at night (11 p.m. to 9 a.m.). A call to Los Angeles costs 28 cents, 17 cents and 12 cents respectively.


distribute that savings," Grenier said. "We've got to make sure that it benefits everybody. A flat rate of 11 cents a minute would be phenomenal for people on the West coast, but for people on the East coast it wouldn't mean that much savings."

Grenier said the final rate package may require dividing the country into different cost zones and spreading out the savings to daytime and night hours. He added that rates for international calls may decrease as well.

The telephone office is expected to make a decision on how to distribute the savings sometime this month.

Recently, MIT students got a major decrease in their long distance rates when the institute negotiated with AT&T to get a flat rate of 20 cents during the day and a 9 cent rate after 5 p.m.

"The students really like AT&T's service, so everything worked out for us," said Valerie Hartt, manager of telecommunications at MIT.

Harvard's long distance service differs from MIT's in that Harvard handles its own billing and charges long distance users a fee for basics such as touch-tone dialing, installation fees, taxes, line repair, caller ID and caller block. This charge is additional to the regular MCI rates, Grenier said.

But some students said they were unaware of this billing feature and available to them.

"I think they should let us use outside phone carriers. I don't know the practicality of it, but they have a monopoly here," said John R. Kiburz '00.

Ali Ahsan '99, a student from Pakistan, said that international rates were so overpriced that even a 50 percent drop in rates would not satisfy him.

"It's a rip off. They're charging three to four times more than anybody else," he said. "They should be morally obligated to lower international rates. It is pure extortion."

But Julie M. Pack '99 said that she is excited about the anticipated price break.

"That would be great, I make a lot of long distance phone calls," she said.

Many students interviewed over the past two days say they are indifferent to Harvard's long distance rates because they use calling cards or 1-800 numbers.

Catherine A. Kreindler '99, said she has used a calling card since boarding school because her parents get the bill.

"Nobody in my room uses their PAC code," she said