In late June the Delaware Public Service Commission ruled that Bell Atlantic Corporation can charge no more than $28.02 per month for unlimited use of a residential ISDN line. ISDN (integrated services digital network) is a service that turns a copper telephone line into a high-speed (56 to 128 Kbps) digital data port that is several times faster than a traditional computer modem. (It is the ideal way of accessing the Internet, but it has been too expensive for most users.) Until the decision, Bell Atlantic's unlimited residential rate was $249 per month. There were no flat rates for non-residential users; 20 hours per month cost approximately $88. Nynex, the only BOC (Bell Operating Company) to charge relatively low flat rates ($25 per month residential and $35 per month non-residential), is now being merged into Bell Atlantic and may seek to adopt the Bell Atlantic rate structure.
The reason why the Public Service Commission and Bell Atlantic were so far apart in their ideas on rates is that the former wants the development and capital costs of ISDN to be borne by the entire customer base, while Bell Atlantic wants to recover costs from the relatively small base of ISDN users.
Bell Atlantic will soon appear before regulators in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The District's Office of People's Counsel has already recommended a rate of $32 per month.
If the residential ISDN rates are set at low levels, the rates for non-residential users (including libraries) will probably also come down. If the residential rates remain high, the non-residential rates will probably stay high until local telephone service is opened to competition.
Bell Atlantic is planning an appeal of the Public Service Commission's ruling in the courts.