Lecompton telephone customers can call Topeka toll-free, but they pay long-distance charges to call Perry, only three miles down the road.
Linwood residents are charged for long-distance services when they call Basehor, even though the two towns have consolidated into one school district.
Residents of DeSoto pay for a long-distance call when they phone Shawnee, a city with borders only 1,500 feet from DeSoto.
Stories such as these prevail in communities across the state, and a Tonganoxie lawmaker hopes to remedy the situation with a bill she has introduced in the Kansas Legislature.
"Telephone companies are discriminating against rural and suburban areas," said Stevi Stephens, D-Tonganoxie. "This would stop discrimination against customers outside major metropolitan areas."
If the bill is signed into law, about 300 telephone exchanges, including several in the Lawrence area, would be affected, Stephens said.
METROPOLITAN exchanges serve a particular area and absorb "communities of interest," towns which make a specified number of calls per month to the metropolitan area. Those towns must apply to be included in the metropolitan exchange.
A 1982 moratorium halted the designation of new communities of interest, Stephens said. Almost 70 applications were pending at the time.
Stephens' bill would lift the moratorium and reactivate those 68 cases, which include requests for toll-free calling from Lawrence to Topeka, Tonganoxie to Kansas City, Baldwin to Wellsville and Oskaloosa to Lawrence.
It also would reduce the criteria for exchanges to be named communities of interest. Her bill would allow communities of interest to be formed if two-thirds of the telephone customers from one area make two calls per month down from 10 to a long-distance exchange.
"BEFORE the moratorium, we had the strictest criteria in the nation," said Stephens.
The bill sets up two scenarios for long-distance telephone service.
About 215 exchanges that "complete a triangle" would receive toll-free service to the cities in the triangle. For example, Tonganoxie residents presently can call Basehor toll-free and Basehor can call Bonner Springs. However, Tonganoxie customers pay long-distance charges to call Bonner Springs.
Under Stephens' bill, Tonganoxie would complete the triangle and receive toll-free calling to Bonner Springs.
The other scenario features an optional Extended Area Service (EAS) for "a flat, reasonable, monthly rate," Stephens said.
"Phone companies will argue that they have to raise monthly rates an exorbitant amount," Stephens said. "I contend they won't have to raise it at all."
THE BILL would have metropolitan telephone customers and subscribers to the new service pay a surcharge to cover the costs of implementing the new service. "We're talking pennies," Stephens said. "It would probably be less than a nickel because it's spread out across the state."
Stephens said the bill probably will be scheduled for committee hearings during the first week in March.