The Utah Supreme Court has ordered that cut-rate telephone service between Salt Lake City and Ogden can continue at least until a Sept. 8 hearing.
Bridge Communications Inc. and American Long Distance Communications Services Inc. offered to transfer calls between the two northern Utah cities for only 25 cents a conversation by taking advantage of an overlap in local calling areas.Both cities' Extended Area Service regions happen to overlap in central Davis County. With automated switching equipment located in Kaysville, the companies were able to forward calls between the cities without dialing long distance or paying the long-distance toll.
They used US WEST telephone lines, and US WEST complained to the Public Service Commission about the loss of long-distance business. Recently, PSC administrative law Judge A. Robert Thurman ruled that the service could be cut off by US WEST. All three PSC commissioners ratified the ruling.
Thurman said Bridge and American Long Distance were different from other telephone users in central Davis County, who might be able to call both cities without toll charges. The difference is that the companies acted as a conduit for the calls of others, charging for the service, he wrote.
Also, the two companies don't contribute to a fund that subsidizes telephone service for isolated customers. The fund is financed by charges on long-distance calls.
Ray Cannefax, president of American Long Distance, said US WEST acted on the PSC ruling, cutting off the companies' calls between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Monday.
"They disconnected all services to Bridge and American Long Distance. In respect to Bridge, they also terminated all their office lines, all their other (telephone) business operations, everything," he said.
Lawyers for the two companies filed an action with the Utah Supreme Court.
"We asked the court for an emergency stay of the commission's order, and on a preliminary basis the court granted our request," said David R. Irvine, lawyer for Bridge.
The court ruled on Wednesday that the phones must be switched on at least until a more thorough hearing on Sept. 8.
That doesn't mean Bridge and American Long Distance are necessarily going to win the court fight. All they had to prove in order to get the stay was that their issues were not frivolous.
Since long-distance service was cut off, "our phones have not stopped ringing," said Cannefax. "Our customers were requesting the numbers for the Public Service commissioners and the attorney general's office."
Although the order to resume long-distance calls was given to lawyers for the parties about 4 p.m. Wednesday, he said, the service was not restored promptly. "As of right now (Thursday morning), we're still not in business.
"We're waiting for US WEST to do what they're supposed to do," Cannefax said.