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Agency: Telcos to pay for ISP calls

Local phone companies will have to foot the bill for calls their customers make to Internet service providers, a California agency has ruled.

A phone call is still a local call, whether it's to another person or another computer, according to a new ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The ruling means that local phone companies, including Pacific Bell and GTE, will have to foot the bill for calls their customers make to Internet service providers that use other local phone carriers, the commission decided yesterday on a 3-2 vote.

PacBell and GTE had argued that phone calls made from their systems to ISPs should not be considered local calls because the caller is sent into cyberspace once he or she connects to the ISP's computer--and could virtually end up going anywhere, PUC spokeswoman Kyle DeVine said.

Local phone companies have to pay each other for local calls that end on another system. Neither GTE nor PacBell were paying for local calls their customers made to other telcos when the calls happened to be to an ISP's computer.

But the commission ruled that calls delivered by modem into cyberspace did not constitute a long distance connection.

"We decided that, for the purposes of what a call is, yes, the call does end at an ISP's modem," DeVine said.

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