Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Saturday, December 7, 1996

HawTel wants to ditch
touch-call fee but can’t

Q: Why does GTE Hawaiian Tel continue to charge $1.60 more per month if you use a Touch-Tone phone? Today, Touch-Tones are needed at hospitals, businesses, credit card companies, stock markets and the city golf course system.

I've called around the West Coast, and PacTel and PacNorthwest say they haven't charged extra for a long time.

The reason initially was because extra equipment was needed when Hawaiian Tel was primarily electromechanical. Now, fiberoptics and computers are in place.

People with rotary/dial pulse phones stay on the line longer and it takes more time on the computer to process them.

A: The explanation, ironically, is that HawTel hasn't been able to eliminate the charge because it hasn't had a rate increase since 1986.

Spokesman Calvin Tadaki explains: When the touch-call service was first offered in the '70s and '80s, it was considered a premium item. Although it's commonplace today, HawTel has not been able to reflect that fact through its charges because it has not had any rate changes since 1986. All tariff rates are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission.

HawTel had a rate case in 1993, but that was postponed. Another case was filed for last year, but the PUC has yet to take action.

"The PUC has asked the company to propose a 'revenue-neutral rate restructuring,' which means we would restructure all rates, but not get any more revenues," Tadaki said.

In that proposal, touch-call would be a standard item.

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