PSC's Access-Charge Cut Will Benefit a Few Special Interests

BALTIMORE - The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) late yesterday ordered Verizon to reduce its in-state access charges by more than $18 million a year. Verizon charges other companies like WorldCom and AT&T to complete long-distance calls for their customers over Verizon's network. Revenues from these "access charges" help to pay for Verizon's huge investment in the local telephone network and to keep customers' local phone rates affordable. The following statement should be attributed to William R. Roberts, president of Verizon Maryland:

"Today's decision by the Public Service Commission to reduce access rates provides a tidy windfall to WorldCom, AT&T and Sprint - but will not benefit Maryland consumers.

"This decision is unnecessary. Verizon's access charges in Maryland already are among the lowest in the region as a result of a 1996 commission order to decrease these rates. Over the last five years, companies like WorldCom and AT&T have pocketed more than $175 million in reduced access charges in Maryland.

"Past experience demonstrates that average Marylanders are unlikely to benefit from promises by these companies to pass on the substantial savings they reap from reduced access charges. Any benefits from these promised rate reductions will be short-lived for residential and small-business customers, as WorldCom, AT&T and others will merely find ways to add other fees in a few months.

"In addition, in light of the turmoil in the telecommunications industry, reducing Verizon's access charges at this time will hamper our ability to invest in Maryland's telecom infrastructure - a necessary ingredient for deployment of broadband services to consumers. We have built an advanced, $7.5 billion telecom network in Maryland. This unwarranted access-charge reduction effectively gives WorldCom, AT&T and others a windfall instead of requiring that they pay for their fair share of using that network and keeping phone service affordable throughout Maryland."