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Cell Phone Rates Double in Italy

January 6, 1999

ROME (AP) _ Italians bought cellular phones by the thousands to give as gifts during the Christmas season. Then came the surprise _ an unexpected doubling of some rates.

Politicians and consumer groups on Wednesday demanded an investigation into the hikes announced by the cellular phone companies.

Several politicians urged consumers not to use their cell phones for a day to pressure the two cellular phone service providers, TIM and Omnitel, into easing the rate hikes.

``Only with a demonstration (such as) a day of phone silence can we force TIM and Omnitel to review the change in rates,″ said Domenico Gramazio, a right-wing opposition deputy.

Italians are passionate about their cell phones, with many households having several ``telefonini″ _ or little phones, as they’re most commonly called here.

Some of the biggest hikes apply to calls made from a home or office phone to a cell phone. Some hikes are as high as 153 percent, while a few rates dipped a bit.

The cell phone companies contend the rate changes put them more in line with charges in the rest of Europe.

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