Features proliferate, costs slump

Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2002

The two providers of local residential phone service in Juneau are relying on their accessories to lure customers to their companies.

The cost of basic local phone service may be pretty much the same now that General Communication Inc. is competing with Alaska Communications Systems to provide residential phone service to Juneau residents. GCI began offering local service last spring.

But the number of features offered by the companies has gone up, and the price to subscribe to them has gone down.

"The most fundamental thing that competition brings is consumer choice," said GCI spokesman David Morris.

Juneau residents can choose from a plethora of features from GCI and ACS, all of which are provided at competitive rates.

The basic residential monthly fee for GCI and ACS, including taxes and surcharges, is $17.16 and $15.86, respectively.

GCI's caller ID service, which allows the consumer to know the identity of a caller before answering a call, is $5.80 a month. ACS charges $6 for the service. Call forwarding and basic call waiting, which alerts a consumer to incoming calls while the phone is in use, are each $1.95 per month from GCI. ACS charges $2 for call forwarding and $2.45 for call waiting.

Each company believes itself to be the most competitive in its package plans, which allow customers to choose from a large list of service features for one price.

ACS Vice President Mary Ann Pease said the cost of basic line service from ACS in Juneau hasn't changed since GCI entered the market, but several new features, such as Internet call manager and automatic call-back, have been added.

"We've created more feature bundles and lowered the prices on those," Pease said.

ACS offers a "mini bundle" package that includes the residential line, call waiting, caller ID and caller ID on call-waiting for $21 per month. GCI offers a "value package plan" with nearly the same features for $24.10 per month. A GCI customer service representative said call waiting in GCI's plan is "enhanced call waiting," meaning the customer can turn it on and off at will.

Both companies offer larger package plans for customers desiring more options. ACS's "mega bundle" offers local service and a choice of up to 13 features for $32.39 per month. GCI offers local service and up to 15 features for $32.31 per month.

GCI has more competitive rates for installation, though. There is no installation fee for GCI, and the first month of service is free. ACS charges a one-time fee of $38.80 for installation, but it is usually able to set up a line in two to three days, as opposed to GCI's three to four weeks.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.

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