Chicago, Chicago ...

When I travel I take along a laptop to keep up with the email. My ISP has local access numbers in lots of places, so most of the time I can connect with a local call. Not so around Chicago, where it seems that to call from one suburb to another, or maybe from one prefix to another, you get dinged for a small fixed charge. A motel that gives free local calls can't cope with the fixed charge, so I have to use the ISPs 800 number, for which there is a substantial per-minute charge.

Whereas if I go over to Michigan there are dozens of local phone numbers listed for each of the places I am likely to stay.

No news in all this, just wanted to get my gripe up in the air.

jhhaynes at earthlink dot net

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The situation was like this: Chicago, for some sixty or seventy years, had 'local area' calling for just one 'unit' or call. Illinois Bell had that system over the entire northern Illnois area. Local, or one-unit, untimed calls within the _corporate city limits_ where you lived. You could call from Howard Street on the north to 145th and Avenue M on the far south side for one unit, talk as long as desired. To be extreme about it, the limits of the city of Chicago can stretch for _35 miles_ in a few instances.

But, going outside the city limits, even a block or so, and you began a multiple unit, timed situation. When I worked on Howard Street on the far north end of town, I could all anywhere I wished south of me for one unit. But to call _across the street_ literally, since at that point 'across the street' was the City of Evanston, IL -- to the McDonald's to order my lunch, it was two units for five minutes and counting. Now, provincial people in the center of town who seldom traveled anywhere thought that was a good deal, and it was. A 'unit' cost about two cents, and the typical residential service plan gave

80 such units free as part of your telephone subscription.

Where I could call to downtown Chicago for 'free', someone who lived in one of the outer suburbs had to pay five or six units for a three minute call. Even though downtown Chicago was part of their 'community of interest' (as it was mine) _they_ had to pay a slight fortune to call the same places, often times because a simple street and a city boundary line got in the way.

Sometime in the early 1980's, Illinois Bell -- I think it was Ameritech by then -- decided to redefine 'local' so the term came closer to reality for most of the area. In reality, my 'community of interest' did not go way out to the far south side of Chicago; like everyone else I was much more interested in things closer to me. And that new system 'evend the score' considerably for the suburbs, many of which are quite rinky-dink in size (for instance the little town of 'Golf' is about four blocks long by two or three blocks wide; it sits in the southeast corner of a bigger suburb called Glenview [thus named because it was founded a hundred years ago by the members of the Glenview Country Club and golf course which sits in that area], but I digress.) Instead of being able to call 'locally' for one thin unit, the new local system allowed for an eight mile radius _of your central office_ as your 'local area' and one untimed unit. Now, the only people who really got screwed were the folks in the highrises along Sheridan Road and (in general) the EDGewater phone office. Sitting as they do along the lake, an eight mile radius of them would put many of them out in Lake Michigan. But Bell knew they could not please everyone with any scheme. So no matter what area code you are in (around Chicago) you call your own central office or any contiquous ceentral office and it is a 'local call'; further away it is a 'unit' (time plus mileage) call.

Oh, one other small small-print 'gotcha': the above only applies to _residential_ service. For business service (essentially anything that does not apply as residential is business) the new system said every call is timed, even the one unit 'local' calls. So, hotels/motels/ dormitories/hospitals -- any place with a switchboard for residents -- pays every time a phone goes off hook and a connection is estab- lished. 'Business' in this context is not just the 7000 station PBX at First National Bank. So you may see how small motels, etc would have a devilish time keeping up with it all. PAT]

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Jim Haynes
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