Bell Atlantic: AT&T Playing Shell Game

Bell Atlantic: AT&T Playing Shell Game

Bell Atlantic Has Reduced Maryland Access Charges $37 Million
Annually; Asks What Savings Have AT&T Passed to Consumers

October 8, 1998


Sandra Arnette,

BACKGROUND -- AT&T yesterday filed a complaint with the
Maryland Public Service Commission asking for a $66 million reduction
in access charges. Access charges are the fees long distance companies
pay local telephone companies to complete long distance calls over the
local phone network. For many years, these charges have helped to keep
basic local phone service affordable for consumers. Over the past several
years, Bell Atlantic has reduced access fees dramatically, yet AT&T has
failed to pass along these savings to all its customers. The following
statement can be attributed to Sherry F. Bellamy, president and CEO of
Bell Atlantic -- Maryland.

"AT&T is playing a shell game, trying to pocket $66 million in access fee
reductions while promising customers they'll pay less for long distance
calls. The truth is, for years the long distance giant has lined its own
pockets with state and federal access charge reductions, with little or no
benefit to consumers.

"Bell Atlantic has reduced access charges by $37 million annually in
Maryland alone. But most long distance customers haven't seen a dime of
savings. In fact, for far too long, the bulk of consumers, who don't
subscribe to any discounted long distance calling plans, have continued to
subsidize AT&T's and MCI's calling plans targeted to their high-end

"In addition, AT&T's request would deal a sharp blow to universal service
in Maryland. This long-standing regulatory framework has depended on
access charges to keep the price of basic local phone service affordable
throughout the state.

"The commission should examine universal service and access charge
reform together, since they are critically linked. The commission also
should see this latest AT&T complaint for the thinly veiled money grab it