AT&T wants to discontinue collect calling, international directory assistance services

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AT&T (NYSE: T) hopes to stop offering a host of operator assisted services this year, including collect calling, signaling the ongoing decline in once-essential legacy telephone services.

In an FCC filing, AT&T asked the FCC for permission to discontinue six retail services by the middle of March: collect calling, person-to-person calling, billed to third party, Busy Line Verification (BLV), Busy Line Interruption (BLI), and International Directory Assistance.  It also asked the commission's permission to shut down the same services to wholesale customers in June.

Upon getting approval to shut down these services, AT&T said it will stop offering them in its geographic service areas throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The reason it is looking to shut down these services is simple: a lack of customer usage. Similar to its fellow ILEC Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T said that operator assistance calls have declined at a rate of 18 percent per year over the last five years. AT&T said that its "operator assistance traffic volumes have dropped by 93 percent since 2004," adding that it "has experienced more than an 18.7% decline in the volumes of these services over the last two years."

"These services have declined in popularity over the years due to the growth of other communication methods, including mobile phones, text messaging, email, and other social media applications," AT&T said in the FCC filing. "In regards to International Directory Assistance, many international telecommunications carriers no longer provide operator assistance services, which makes AT&T's service obsolete in those countries."

AT&T is hardly alone in moving to shut down more traditional legacy voice-like services.

Verizon filed a similar petition with the FCC to stop offering its postpaid calling card and personal 800 services due to a lack of subscriber activity, for example.

For more:
- see the FCC filing (PDF)

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