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In Chapel Hill, Calling Your Next Door Neighbors Can Be Long Distance

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CHAPEL HILL — When it comes to phone service, how long is long distance? Some people in Chapel Hill are complaining that it is not very long when it comes to GTE, now known asVerizon. Callers are frustrated because they are not getting the same service opportunities as the rest of the town.

Stephen Greenberg and his neighbors are so frustrated with their phone service, they took their complaints straight to theChapel Hill Town CouncilMonday evening.

"When we had a death in the family at the end of April. My wife's aunt, who lives in Raleigh, dialed 411 and could not get our phone number," Greenberg says.

While almost all of Chapel Hill isBellSouthterritory, 18 neighborhoods on the eastern edge of town have GTE-Verizon. In some cases, a call across the street is long distance.

Some customers say they are listed in directory assistance as Durham, even though they live in Chapel Hill. Residents say getting a wider local calling area is overpriced and the Internet speed will be too slow.

In another, confusing scenario, one of Greenberg's neighbors decided to get a separate phone line for his child. Due to two different phone prefixes, dialing from downstairs in his house to a room upstairs was considered long distance. A GTE-Verizon spokesman says it was an unrelated misunderstanding.

Verizon spokesman Steve Toler tried to ease the ill feelings of customers at the meeting, but did not have many direct answers for callers.

"Our commitment is to provide outstanding phone service to our customers," he says. "We have to get back and check with our folks and see what it is that we might be able to do."

Toler says rapid growth complicates the phone service issues. He says the company wants to work with Chapel Hill customers without jeopardizing rates for the rest of their customers.

The town council asked Verizon to work with BellSouth toward some sort of solution.


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