AMERICAN SAMOA HOUSE REVIEWING HIGH TELEPHONE RATES

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (August 3, 1997 - Samoa News)---The high costs associated with making long-distance telephone calls from American Samoa now is under review by the House Transportation and Communication Committee.

Hearings have been scheduled as a result of advertisements in the Samoa News sponsored by the group, American Samoa Fund for the Public Interest.

According to the advertisements, the U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in Washington has ordered that American Samoa's long distance phone rates comply with federal standards.

The advertisement claims, however, that local residents are paying as much as 80 cents a minute to call the U.S., while residents of the U.S. pay as little as 72 cents a minute to call American Samoa, implying that federal compliance is not taking place.

The advertisement also points out that calls from the U.S. to other Pacific Islands nations are much cheaper than calls to American Samoa.

"In Guam, a charge of 55 cents per minute is in effect, whether calling to or from the U.S.," according to the advertisement.

On the House floor, Committee Chairman Su'emalo Seti Lopa, said "The public has suffered long enough from the high cost of telephone service in the Territory, especially long-distance rates."

"There are many questions needing answers and there are answers that need clarification which we have not yet heard," he continued.

To answer these questions and more, the Chairman pointed out, Office of Communications Director Aleki Sene will be asked to appear before the House Transportation and Communication Committee on Thursday.

"I also invite members of the public to attend this important hearing," he added. "The Fono also needs to find out more about how American Samoa is affected by the U.S. Telecommunication Act of 1996. Furthermore, the Committee wants to find out why, according to the advertisement, then-Governor A.P. Lutali opposed the FCC plan to include American Samoa in the Act."

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