Bell Atlantic Asks Public Service Commission To Ensure Fair Start To Telecommunications Competition In West Virginia
July 9, 1997
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia Public Service Commission [PSC]
must maintain a fair start to full telecommunications competition in
the state, according to papers filed by Bell Atlantic late today.
In its filing, Bell Atlantic-West Virginia is asking the PSC to ensure
that full long distance competition is available at the same time that
Bell Atlantic must enable its telephone customers to pre-select a
company to carry their regional toll calls - calls between Charleston
and Huntington or Morgantown and Clarksburg, for example. This
process, known as "presubscription," is similar to the way customers
choose their long distance company today.
"We're asking the commission to reaffirm its stand for full and fair
competitive ground rules by changing the date for presubscription
until all competitors are able to vie for consumers' local, regional
toll and long distance business," said Dennis Bone, president and CEO
of Bell Atlantic-West Virginia.
On Jan. 24, the commission decided that presubscription would begin
Aug. 15 or when Bell Atlantic-West Virginia is allowed to offer long
distance service, whichever comes first. Bell Atlantic now is asking
that the date be changed to Jan. 1, 1998, or the date that the company
is allowed to begin offering long distance service, whichever is
"When the commission set the Aug. 15 presubscription deadline, it
expected that it would have concluded the consideration of Bell
Atlantic's statement of generally available terms and conditions," said
Bone. This statement includes pricing and other information for
competitors who seek to link their networks with Bell Atlantic or to
resell local telecommunications services provided by Bell Atlantic.
Bell Atlantic must make its local phone facilities available to
competitors before it will be allowed to provide long distance service
in its service area.
Despite timely action by the commission, consideration of Bell
Atlantic's statement has taken at least five weeks longer than
expected due to a number of petitions for reconsideration filed by
AT&T, MCI and Sprint. Although the PSC denied all those petitions,
AT&T has publicly indicated its intent to challenge the commission's
decision in federal court, further adding to the delay.
"It's clear from their actions and public statements that AT&T and the
other long distance giants are more interested in keeping Bell
Atlantic out of the long distance market than they are in providing
local telephone service in West Virginia," said Bone. "MCI, for
example, raised a number of self-serving arguments in its filings but
has not yet even asked permission to offer local phone service in West
Virginia, nearly a year and a half after the federal
Telecommunications Act became law.
"The Big Three want to be able to offer West Virginians long distance
and regional toll calling while Bell Atlantic is kept from offering
the same range of services," he said.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice recently has publicly
stated that Bell Atlantic or any other Bell company applying to
provide in-region long distance service must demonstrate that its
operational support systems can meet service requests from competing
local phone companies. This view was not known at the time the PSC
set the Aug. 15 presubscription date.
As a result of the Department of Justice's position, Bell Atlantic now
is conducting additional testing of its support systems. These
tests, however, will further delay Bell Atlantic's ability to enter
the long distance market.
"The PSC's and the Telecommunications Act's goals of full and fair
competition can only be realized by modifying the date for
presubscription, thereby giving Bell Atlantic a reasonable opportunity
to enter the long distance market," said Bone.
Bell Atlantic Corp. (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new
communications, entertainment and information industry. In the
mid-Atlantic region, the company's telephone company subsidiaries are
the premier providers 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.