DE 98-042
                            Bell Atlantic
    Request to Include East Hampstead in the Local Calling Area of
                        the Hampstead Exchange
     Order Granting Relief and Requesting Additional Information
                       O R D E R  N O.   23,038
                           October 7, 1998

         On March 20, 1998, the New Hampshire Public Utilities
Commission (Commission) received a letter from State Senator
Richard Russman urging the Commission to expand the Plaistow
local calling area to include Derry and Salem.  On April 1, 1998,
the Commission received a petition from Karen Solomonides and
Cheryl Giaquinta, signed by 250 residents of the Plaistow (382
and 378) exchange, requesting that the local calling area be
expanded to include Derry and Salem.  The petition explained that
central and western Hampstead are located in the Hampstead
exchange, which includes Derry and Salem in the local calling
area, while East Hampstead is located in the Plaistow exchange
which does not include Derry and Salem in the local calling area. 
The petition also requested an evening hearing in the town of
         On July 20, 1998, the Commission issued an Order of
Notice scheduling an evening hearing for August 4, 1998.  The
Order of Notice indicated that EAS petitions are subject to a
standard established by Order No. 22,204 issued June 18, 1996
which includes consideration of community of interest, the effect
on telecommunications competition within New Hampshire, and
consistency with state and federal law.
         On August 4, 1998, the Commission held a duly noticed
hearing for the public at the Hampstead Town Hall.  The
Commission heard comments from members of the public and from the
New England Telephone & Telegraph Company d/b/a Bell Atlantic and
hereinafter referred to as Bell Atlantic.  The Commission
accepted written comments and comments submitted by electronic
mail after the hearing.
         A.   Petitioners
          Many East Hampstead customers asserted that as a
matter of equity, they should have the same local calling area as
the customers in the western and central parts of Hampstead who
are able to call Derry and Salem without incurring toll charges. 
Hampstead children attend Pinkerton Academy in Derry and the
community hospital, Parkland Medical Center, is also located in
Derry.  Salem is the major retail area for the Town of Hampstead. 
The residents argued that they pay a disproportionate amount in
toll charges to schools, doctors, hospitals and retail stores
compared to their neighbors in Hampstead who are located in the
Hampstead exchange.  They believe it is unfair that despite the
fact that they live in the same town, go to the same schools and
use the same  retail stores as other residents of Hampstead, they
incur toll charges while their neighbors do not. 
         B.   Bell Atlantic
         Mr. Charles Paone, on behalf of Bell Atlantic, stated
that the EAS rules recently established by the Commission balance
the sometimes conflicting interests of all customers within an
exchange and the Company would comply with the outcome of these
rules.  He also pointed out that if the Commission directed Bell
Atlantic to expand the local calling area, the engineering and
implementation phase could take up to six months.  In response to
questions, Mr. Paone indicated that it is technically possible to
address this problem using software, but may be very difficult. 
         C.   Written Comments
         After the hearing, the Commission received additional
letters supporting the petition, including a letter from the Town
of Hampstead Office of Selectmen.  The letter reiterated a point
made at the hearing that the 400 East Hampstead customers in the
Plaistow exchange of approximately 8700 access lines are a small
minority of the entire Plaistow exchange, but nevertheless,
should have the same local calling area as other Hampstead
         This petition is before us for analysis in light of our
prior decisions regarding expansion of EAS, the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TAct) and the actual changes in
telecommunications markets in New Hampshire.  By Order No.
22,204, issued June 18, 1996, we found that carriers and
communities retained the right to petition for EAS expansion and
articulated the standard for assessing an EAS petition.  The
standard applies a community of interest approach as defined in
FCC Docket No. 96-45, In the Matter of Federal-State Joint Board
on Universal Service, Report and Order, FCC 97-157, released May
8, 1997 and hereinafter referred to as the Universal Service
Order.  In the FCC's opinion, a calling area which reflects the
community of interest is one which "allows subscribers to call
hospitals, schools and other essential services without incurring
a toll charge."  Further elaborating on the issue of
affordability, the FCC states in its Universal Service order that
"...affordability is affected by the amount of toll charges a
consumer incurs to contact essential service providers such as
hospitals, schools, and government offices that are located
outside of the consumers local calling area...".
         We use the FCC definitions to facilitate examination of
this petition.  From the comments made by customers residing in
East Hampstead at the public hearing on August 4, 1998, the
Plaistow exchange does not appear to encompass their community of
interest.     We are convinced that the petitioners have established
that a community of interest exists between the customers of East
Hampstead and the towns of Derry and Salem and that those
customers residing in the East Hampstead portion of the Plaistow
exchange should be afforded the same local calling opportunities
as those citizens residing in the westerly and central portions
of Hampstead.  However, we are not convinced at this point in
time that it is necessary or appropriate to poll the entire
Plaistow exchange on the question of whether the entire exchange
should be augmented to include Salem and Derry.  Accordingly, we
will direct Bell Atlantic to provide the following information
within 30 days of this order so that the Commission can adopt an
appropriate plan for resolving this matter:
         1.   the cost (per customer) of rewiring the affected
              East Hampstead lines from the Plaistow central
              office to the Hampstead central office;
         2.   the cost (per customer) of developing a billing
              solution that would treat the East Hampstead
              customers as if they were in the Hampstead
         3.   a new optional calling plan and any costs/rates
              that would be associated with it; and,
         4.   any other option that Bell Atlantic believes would
              be appropriate to address the issues discussed
         Upon receipt of the information required above, we will
determine the appropriate resolution of this petition.  Prior to
implementing any change that would result in increased rates we 
will provide residents with notice of the proposed change and an
opportunity to respond either by conducting a poll or a hearing.
         Based upon the foregoing, it is hereby
         ORDERED, that within 30 days, Bell Atlantic provide the
Commission with the information listed in 1 through 4 above.
         By order of the Public Utilities Commission of New
Hampshire this seventh day of October, 1998. 

               Douglas L. Patch     Bruce B. Ellsworth    Susan S. Geiger
                   Chairman            Commissioner         Commissioner

Attested by:

Thomas B. Getz
Executive Director and Secretary