Consumers' Voice Sounds Hoarse in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, PA - Calls by an Indiana-based "consumer advocacy group" to further hamstring Verizon Communications would only hurt Pennsylvanians already missing out on the fruits of full telecommunications competition.

This morning in a Harrisburg news conference, Consumers' Voice used scare tactics to pressure Pennsylvania regulators to take steps to avoid "phone problems that occurred in New York."

"Today's antics by Consumers' Voice are designed to mask increasingly hoarse attempts by big long-distance companies AT&T and WorldCom to delay the day when Pennsylvanians will be able to choose Verizon as their local and long-distance phone service provider," said Harry Mitchell, Verizon director-media relations. "This is merely an attempt by our strongest competitors to keep Verizon out of the business they dominate today."

"These companies have no legitimate argument, so they hide behind front groups such as Consumers' Voice and Pennsylvanians for Local Competition, distorting the truth and using scare tactics to further their agenda," said Mitchell.

"Indeed, the Pennsylvania public relations contact for Consumers' Voice is the same person who fronted for Pennsylvanians for Local Competition, which is totally funded by AT&T."

Instead of fearing the experiences New Yorkers encountered as full competition for local and long-distance phone service increased there, Pennsylvanians should demand that such robust competition come to the Commonwealth today, Mitchell added. "In New York, where Verizon has offered long-distance service since January, more than 1 million customers have chosen us as their long-distance provider. Similarly, AT&T and WorldCom have won more than 1 million local customers from Verizon."

One consumer group estimates that, in the short time that Verizon has offered long-distance service in New York, citizens have realized about $250 million in local and long-distance charges savings.

Consumers' Voice relies on a few unproven anecdotes to make outlandish suggestions about Pennsylvania's competitive market and the service Verizon provides competing phone companies. Once again, the facts paint an entirely different picture:

  • Competitors serve about 1.6 million local telephone numbers throughout the Commonwealth.
  • More than 185 companies are authorized to provide local service in Pennsylvania.
  • AT&T has claimed more than 20,000 local customers in Pittsburgh, and it's offering new customers free local and long-distance service through the end of this year.
  • WorldCom has announced that it is beginning to offer local phone service in Pennsylvania.
  • A company named KPMG currently is conducting a thorough test of Verizon's computer systems competitors link with to switch customers' local service from Verizon. This test is even more stringent than a similar test in New York.

"Our operating support systems are working very well today, and we feel the test by KPMG will validate that," said Mitchell. "Verizon urges Pennsylvanians to ignore the nonsense being generated by these front groups and demand full competition by all players now."

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with more than 100 million access line equivalents and 25.6 million wireless customers. A Fortune 10 company with more than 260,000 employees and approximately $60 billion in 1999 revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.