12.19.1996Public Policy

Bell Atlantic asks FCC to modify Joint Board's Universal Service recommendations

"We're asking the FCC to align the joint board's recommendations with the Telecommunications Act," said Edward D. Young, III

ARLINGTON, Va. - Some of the new recommendations for preserving low cost telephone service for rural and poor customers miss the letter and intent of the new Telecommunications Act, Bell Atlantic told the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] today.

The company urged the FCC to modify portions of the recent recommendations by a joint state-federal board studying the protection of universal service. The board was established following the passage of sweeping legislation aimed at opening telecommunications markets to competition.

"We're asking the FCC to align the joint board's recommendations with the Telecommunications Act," said Edward D. Young, III, vice president and associate general counsel - Bell Atlantic. "The Act envisions a reasonably sized federal fund and complementary state funds. The law also encourages telecommunications providers to contribute fairly. By adhering to these guiding principles, the FCC will protect affordable telephone service for all consumers, while meeting the special needs of schools, libraries and rural health-care facilities."

In a filing submitted today, Bell Atlantic called on the FCC to:

  • Keep the federal universal service fund small. A massive federal fund could rob states of the ability to set up their own programs to provide low cost telephone service for the poor and for customers in small towns and remote locations. A proposed tax on state telephone revenues could force telephone companies to channel money to other states, when it's needed most at home.

     

  • Ensure that all telecommunications companies contribute to the national fund equally. Bell Atlantic believes those contributions should be calculated on a company's interstate retail revenues. The joint board's proposal for taxing gross revenues shifts the obligation of funding universal service primarily to local companies - the very companies that most need the fund's support.

     

  • Protect the consumer. A gold-plated telecommunications network funded by a large infusion of federal universal service dollars does not serve telephone customers' interests. "We need a fund that keeps local phone prices low and provides basic on-line connections to schools, libraries and rural health care facilities," Young emphasized. "Customers don't want to subsidize frills."

"Our filing offers reasonable, consumer-friendly solutions," Young continued. "The FCC has a golden opportunity to get it right, and we hope it heeds our suggestions."

Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new communications, entertainment and information industry. In the mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing high-growth national and international business opportunities in all phases of the industry.

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