Are all of you folks out there in BBS land aware of what the
phone companies are trying to pull off this year? Well, here's a synopsis of a thread that I've been tracking for the past few weeks. According to Bill Blomgren, a BBS operator, the phone companies in several states have decided that ANY BBS SYSTEM is a business. What that means is that the 12 year old running a little board on his Apple 2 may now have to pay full business rates. That is the $50 per month base rate, plus increases (massive) in long distance and other charges. Example: local rates… Touch Tone residential: $.50 per month.. Business: $2.50 per month…. Long distance rates almost double… and so on.
The Phone Company does not care if the line is used for friends
only. If the board appears on any list, it is considered "advertising", accepts any $, it is a profit maker… accepts uploads (Guess what they think shareware is? Compensation)….
As you can imagine, local BBS are under great economic threat.
Not many of them can afford tripling or quadrupling of the phone bill. Indiana's PUC threw out the challenge to the new rates from GTE, and Bell has already has a similar request pending, waiting for the decision. In MI, there is a company charging not only business rates, but an extra $$$$ per month for 'Processing' and line charges.. Special services for modem operations… In Texas…boards that take a penny, or have more than 3 lines are businesses..
Here's another example: a guy had an 'adult' board up with 15
lines. Had it running for around 5 or 6 months when word got spread on a talk station that it existed. GTE IMMEDIATELY billed him for 15 lines of business service, retroactively, and closed him down 4 days later when he couldn't immediately come up with $3000. The phone company can usually do whatever it wants with your bill. The only exception is the little old lady who dials out once a month and gets 4 calls a month.
Granted, this is an extreme example. Reasonably speaking, any
board with 15 lines is almost certainly charging for the service, and hopefully making some money for the operator.
I don't think any reasonable person would object to large BBS
which are operated as profit making businesses being charged business phone rates. What frightens me is what appears to be arbitrarily defined criteria for business classification. While 15 lines into a subscription BBS may clearly be a business, I don't think that one line into a non- or minimal subscription BBS is anything more than a hobby, and needs to be protected as such.
Here are some more horror stories. According to Ryan Ritenour,
all BBS's in Elkhart, Indiana are being charged business rates for their lines. This has been going on now for several months. While some small time BBS's may get away without paying higher rates for a while, Ryan believes that they will soon get hit too. According to Ryan, several boards have already closed down because of the additional cost, while most other BBS's are going subscription.
And if you think this is an isolated incident, think twice. Once
all the other phone companies get wind of GTE charging higher rates, they are all going to want to do it too. Eventually this will lead to the modem and fax user.
There's more. According to Bill Blomgren, on a recent COSUARD
conference, there was a week of discussion about boards shutting down in one area around Detroit, where the phone Co. not only reclassified them as businesses, but insisted that as a data processing service they HAD to buy extra cost services, including $50 per month per line for 'special handling'. The lines ended up costing $100 per month, which cropped a couple hundred BBS lines down to 3-6 in a little over a month.
Bill believes that there are two important points that need to be
made about the phone companies in his area. 1) GTE has decided to get into the "Data distribution and sales" business. As part of that, they declared that "They would have to deal with the competition" to make their efforts profitable. Guess who the competition is? You got it, the local BBS. 2) They are looking for new sources of revenue without any additional installation of equipment. The best way to do that is to find ways of making lines already installed pay for business rates, and in his area, they are doing that retroactively.
OK, so what do we do? See the next message for some suggestions.