BPU Support of Verizon's Bid to Offer Long Distance Is Right Call for New Jersey Consumers

BACKGROUND -- The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) today said it will support Verizon's pending application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to offer long-distance service in New Jersey. The BPU decision follows an intensive, five-year review of Verizon's compliance with the requirements of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. This review included technical hearings, voluminous written testimony and full hearings before the BPU commissioners. The BPU also examined the results of an independent, 19-month test of the Verizon computer systems used by competitors to switch customers' local service from Verizon, and a separate independent examination of Verizon's electronic billing systems. Verizon's bid has the support of the Communications Workers of America as well as community, business and political leaders from more than 50 organizations, including ones that provide services to the state's minorities, the elderly and the disabled. The FCC has until March 20 to decide on Verizon's long-distance application, which was filed Dec. 20. The following response should be attributed to Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey:

"After an exhaustive review of the entire record, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities rightly determined that Verizon has met the requirements of the federal Telecommunications Act to open the local phone market to competitors. Today's action by the BPU is good news for New Jersey consumers.

"The BPU's support means that Garden State consumers now are closer to reaping the benefits of full competition that their neighbors in New York and Pennsylvania enjoy today. A recent study by the Telecommunications Research Action Center projects that New Jersey consumers who switch to Verizon Long Distance could save as much as $18.44 per month in long-distance charges alone, with the greatest savings for low-volume users, including low-income and older residents. Verizon Long Distance offers plans that feature competitive rates without pricing gimmicks, and it does so at a time when the nation's three largest long-distance carriers have announced price increases.

"Studies by TRAC and the Federal Communications Commission showed increased competition for both long-distance and local phone services in New York and other states where the former Bell phone companies now offer long distance.

"What could be more in the public interest than more savings and choice for both local and long-distance services? The consumer benefits are clear. The public interest is clear. We believe we have a very strong request before the FCC and we're confident that, when the commission examines the record, the FCC will agree that it's time for Verizon long distance in New Jersey."