Bell Atlantic Consumer Alert: AT&T Spreads Deception in Virginia

Bell Atlantic Consumer Alert: AT&T Spreads Deception in Virginia

Long-Distance/Cable Giant Hides Behind So-Called Consumer Group

May 3, 2000


Paul Miller ,

RICHMOND, Va. - Bell Atlantic warned its customers today that AT&T is bringing its road show of deception to Virginia under the guise of a consumer group, Virginians for Local Telephone Competition.

In several Bell Atlantic-served states, notably New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, AT&T has created such front groups to foist its self-serving agenda on an unsuspecting public. A 1999 news release from Virginians for Local Telephone Competition even cites AT&T as a major sponsor.

"This group is bankrolled by AT&T to lobby its agenda. We all know that, and it is a real shame that the coalition members get used in this fashion. It's not the Virginia way. AT&T should be willing to speak for itself without hiding behind others," said Robert Woltz, acting president and CEO of Bell Atlantic - Virginia.

Woltz noted that Bell Atlantic's rates for most local and access services in Virginia have not increased in almost 20 years.

"Ask AT&T and its coalition members how long it's been since AT&T raised its rates for long-distance or cable TV services," he said. Many customers now face minimum monthly charges or price increases about which they were never informed ahead of time.

"Virginians for Local Telephone Competition has one mission - AT&T's," Woltz said.

"I'm a little surprised AT&T would use its campaign of distortion and misinformation south of the Potomac," he said.

The group is trying to hoodwink Virginians by gaining their support for AT&T-inspired, distorted claims about Bell Atlantic and local phone competition. In other states, similar front groups have released "surveys" whose results predictably reflect AT&T's positions. These groups also bash Bell Atlantic in broadcast and newspaper advertising.

"Such tactics support AT&T's main strategy - to keep Bell Atlantic out of the long-distance business for as long as possible by claiming that we are impeding competition for local phone service," Woltz said.

Nothing could be further from the truth, he added. "Today, dozens of companies are competing for Virginians' local phone service. We see their ads on TV and in the papers," Woltz said. "These companies are reselling Bell Atlantic's phone services, leasing parts of our network or offering phone service over their own networks."

Conspicuous by its absence is AT&T.

"AT&T has no intention of seriously competing for Virginia consumers' local phone service any time soon," he said. "Residential customers will see the full benefits of AT&T competition for local phone service only when Bell Atlantic is able to offer long distance service, thereby crashing the long distance giants' cozy little club.

"Full competition by all players for all telecommunications services will bring the promise of the Telecommunications Act to all Virginians," Woltz added.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With more than 44 million telephone access lines and more than 20 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.