To my surprise, Verizon in NJ still offers message rate service using message units. Message units date way back as a way to bulk bill customers for calls made. Panel and No. 1 crossbar switches had message registers for each line that would count up local calls. These would be recorded and posted to the customer's bill. In a few places, suburban calls (short-haul toll) were billed via message units as well.
This directory listed some basic POTS telephone service rates. There may also be premium plans with unlimited long distance not shown. Some excerpts from the phone book:
Subscriber Line charge $6.30/month.
. Flat Rate service: $16.45/month. . Message Rate service, 75 units: $14.90/month. . Low use message rate, 20 units: $12.70/month.
The local calling area has a radius of about 20 miles. Calls beyond that are regional toll calls, billed at 25c/minute daytime, 17c/minute evening-weekend, and 15c/minute late night. The regional calling areas are roughly 50 x 100 miles in size; beyond that requires a long distance carrier.
Regional Toll calls also still have optional operator services. This include collect (reversal of charges), person-to-person (charges do not start until the desired person or extension is on the line), third number billing, and time and charges (immediate notification of length and cost of call). Operator handled calls have an additional charge of $3.00, except person-to-person which is a $4.50 additional charge. [Given that a call is at most 25c/minute, it would seem very unlikely to utilize operator services at these rates.]
I've tried searching for legacy local calling plans in other cities but I've had no success. The carriers appear to only show their premium modern plans on the web. At one time local telephone directories were available in the library, but they generally do not publish phone books these days, and libraries don't carry them.
Some years ago, I had the impression that certain cities, like New York and Chicago, offered _only_ message rate local service, not flat rate. There may have been premium packages with large message unit allowances, but there was still always an upper limit. Would anyone know more about that?
In the 1970s, Bell proposed Usage Sensitive Pricing, where local flat rate service would be replaced by message rate service, even in places that were only flat rate. Computerized AMA systems had been developed for step-by-step and they could accomodate message rate billing.[public replies, please] [moderator pro tem's note: Most of the old tariffs are still around, available if you ask for them. Verizon's tariff library is on line at the Verizon Global Wholesle web site. VZ-NJ's local calling areas are usually much less than 20 miles though, typically limited to contiguous rate centers.]