Momentum for Full Telecom Competition Builds As FCC Okays Verizon's Pennsylvania Long-Distance Bid

NEWARK, N.J. - New Jerseyans continue to wait for the day when they can join consumers in other states who now enjoy the choices and savings of full telecommunications competition.

That day may be nearing as Verizon continues to demonstrate it has met federal and state requirements to enter the long-distance market in New Jersey. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) currently is considering whether to support Verizon's upcoming application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide long-distance service in the Garden State.

Pennsylvania today became the fourth state in the Northeast where Verizon has received the approval required by the federal Telecommunications Act to offer long-distance service. The former regional Bell companies must get FCC approval before they can offer long distance in the states where they provide local phone service. In addition to Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, Verizon is able to offer long-distance service in 36 other states formerly served by GTE Long Distance, which was not a Bell company.

"The momentum is building, with Pennsylvania joining the states that have embraced full telecom competition," said Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey. "It's now time for New Jerseyans to have the increased choices and savings that wide-open competition brings."

Consumers in New York are saving up to $700 million annually in local and long-distance charges since Verizon began providing long-distance service in the Empire State in January 2000, according to an independent study by the Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC). A separate TRAC study found that Pennsylvania consumers could save up to $452 million in the first year after Verizon enters the long-distance business in the state.

"It's a simple formula - competition for local phone service heats up as Verizon obtains long-distance approval," said Bone. "It happened in New York and Massachusetts. It's happening now in Pennsylvania, and it will happen here."

"By any measure, the local market in New Jersey is irrevocably open," said Bone.

Almost 485,000 New Jersey telephone customers are served by competitors who have access to nearly 90 percent of Verizon's residential lines and 95 percent of Verizon's business lines in New Jersey through arrangements allowing them to collocate their equipment in Verizon's buildings.

In a Sept. 5 filing with the BPU, Verizon sought board support for the company's proposed long-distance application to the FCC. Verizon's BPU filing provides extensive detail showing that the company has met a 14-point competitive checklist specified in the Telecommunications Act. This checklist stipulates the criteria former Bell companies must satisfy to demonstrate they have opened their local networks to competitors. Meeting this checklist is a prerequisite for Verizon to receive federal permission to offer long-distance service in New Jersey.

The BPU is reviewing the evidence from Verizon, including the results of an exhaustive, 18-month independent test of Verizon's operating support systems that are used by competitors when they switch local customers' service from Verizon to their company.

"When the BPU completes its exhaustive examination of the record, the test results and competitors' actual experience using our computer systems, we're confident it will support our long-distance application to the FCC," said Bone.

The FCC has 90 days to review Verizon's long-distance bid once the company completes the BPU's review process and files its application with the FCC. The New Jersey BPU and the U.S. Department of Justice will provide their recommendations to the FCC before it makes a final decision.

"We hope to offer New Jerseyeans another choice for all their telecommunications needs - including long distance - early next year," said Bone.

Verizon Communications

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) 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 125 million access line equivalents and approximately 28 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with about 260,000 employees and more than $65 billion in annual 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.