Honolulu Star-Bulletin - Kokua Line

Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, April 21, 1999

Federal law blamed
for phone charge

Question: I called GTE to find out why I was being charged 41 cents a month and was told that I would be charged 41 cents every month for five years in case a new phone company comes in and I may want to change my phone number.

But if you don't change your number, you're out 41 cents a month for five years! Isn't this what we've been reading about - cramming?

Answer: GTE Hawaiian Tel officials say don't blame them - that they're only following federal law.

But they don't know what 41-cent charge you're referring to, since all residential and most business customers are being assessed 38 cents a month, per telephone line, said GTE spokesman Keith Kamisugi.

Some customers are being charged more, but it's much higher than 41 cents, he said.

"This (38-cent) rate was calculated based on GTE's costs and submitted - and approved - by the Federal Communications Commission as a reasonable amount," he said.

This "number portability service" was requested by GTE's competitors and enacted into law by Congress, through the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The idea was to encourage competition.

How? Number portability allows businesses to change telephone carriers without having to change phone numbers.

Nationally, it's costing GTE $400 million for network upgrades to provide number portability, Kamisugi said. (By comparison, he said GTE is spending about $370 million to address Y2K issues.)

To recoup the costs of providing number portability, the FCC allowed local telephone companies to assess an "end user surcharge" to recover the costs of providing this service, beginning in February of this year, for five years, Kamisugi said. GTE Hawaiian Tel began assessing that fee last month.

Number portability is available now, but most residential customers don't have the option yet of switching companies. For now, the option is mainly available to businesses, since the other phone companies are targeting that more lucrative market. Most Oahu customers should be able to make a switch next year, if they so choose.

Q: What can be done to help a homeless person who keeps going into the middle of the road in heavy traffic? She's usually in a daze and talks to herself. I saw her yesterday about 5:30 in the afternoon, in between the lanes of traffic on Kamehameha Highway, near Kanuku Street, so I called police. They finally came after 6. I asked them, can't you do something about this? Can't you take her to a shelter? I'm really concerned about this - that either she's going to be killed or somebody in a car is going to be killed. But the police officers said no, they can't do anything about this. I asked can't they stay and watch her and they said they were too busy. I called the mayor's office and they told me to call Pearl City police, who told me to call whenever I see her on the street again. What can we do?

A: You need to be a willing witness.

The next time you see this woman in the street, you should call police and "be willing to be a witness, be the complainant in the case and provide a written statement," said Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Jean Motoyama. "Then they will take her in and try to get her some help."

The problem is that police cannot act if they don't see her in danger or causing a danger.

HPD has an outreach program to deal with street people.

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
Email to kokualine@starbulletin.com

E-mail to City Desk

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