BT to cut charges on some local calls in rural areas

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The Independent Online
BT is cutting charges for many rural customers by changing the boundaries for local calls. The new regime means that in some areas off-peak three-minute calls that now cost 15p or 25p because they are considered long-distance will cost only 5p, writes Mary Fagan.

The company said that in the past local call areas have often been defined by natural boundaries, including mountains and sea. But recent developments in digital technology mean that the cost of circumventing these barriers has dropped dramatically, allowing the local call areas to be extended.

'Some calls in remote areas, which would be treated as local calls in other parts of the UK, have been charged according to distance. We are now removing that anomaly,' a spokesman said. The changes benefit 1.7 million customers in areas including the Lake District, Pennines, south-west England, Scilly Isles and parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The new prices will come into effect on 12 January 1994.

This is the latest move in BT's drive to be seen as more caring towards customers. Earlier this month, it cut the cost of weekend calls by up to 60 per cent in an effort to fend off competition from Mercury and the cable television companies.

However, BT's price cuts are needed to keep within the company's regulatory control, which limits increases on the basket of basic services to inflation minus 7.5 percentage points.