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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Per-Minute Calls Said Still Far Off

A scheme to transform Moscow's telephone network billing system from a flat rate to minute-by-minute charges is still in the developmental stage, with no changes to residential customers' unlimited local call allowance likely before the end of next year, a Communications Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

"Plans to implement the new tariff regime have been on the cards for quite a while but things are moving faster now," spokesman Alexander Pakhmanov said in an interview.

Telephone meters that would monitor the duration of local calls are nearly all in place, and 3 million Moscow phone users -- mostly businesses and organizations -- already are being charged on a per-minute basis, he said. The Moscow scheme is patterned on pilot projects in cities such as Arkhangelsk and Kaliningrad that concluded with "satisfactory results," he said.

But although experiments so far have drawn no adverse reaction, he said the city would wait until the end of 1997 before extending the system to individual phone users because it wanted time to ensure a "painless" transition through public education.

Semyon Rabovsky, deputy general director of the Moscow City Telephone Network, or MGTS, cited "tremendous" expenses as the main reason the company has so far held off putting the move into practice.

Switching on the new tariff meters would cost MGTS approximately $8 per telephone, in addition to funds already spent on training and the purchase of the Czech-made telecommunications equipment, Rabovsky said.

"But the expense will pay off in the end -- it will bring Moscow's telephone system in line with those of other modern European cities," he said.

Rabovsky also stressed that per-minute charges would be a "fairer" system that would obviate the need to raise monthly telephone rent from its current level of 12,000 rubles a month.

"This way people who make more calls than others will also pay more," he said. Although opinion surveys have shown that customers fear they will pay more on a per-minute tariff, in fact only 20 percent of users would be affected, he said.

Under the new system, the company will continue to charge customers a flat tariff, which would be valid for the first 600 to 700 minutes a month, with additional calls monitored on a minute-to-minute basis, the Communications Ministry's Pakhmanov said. Rates for additional minutes have not yet been fixed, he said.

Anna Boiko, an MGTS spokeswoman, said that while the new tariff regime would be extended simultaneously to all of Moscow's estimated 4 million individual phone owners by the end of 1997, the practice of giving discounts to certain categories of customers such as war veterans and invalids would continue.