PUC's Denial of Accelerated Review Process For Verizon's Long-Distance Bid a Blow to Consumers

BACKGROUND -- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today denied a request by Verizon that would accelerate full communications competition in the commonwealth. Verizon had asked the PUC to move forward the commission's 100-day review of Verizon's readiness before the company files its long-distance application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Verizon asked the PUC to begin its review period concurrent with or after the Nov. 10 public release of a third-party auditing firm's initial report on an exhaustive test of Verizon's computer systems. Competitors use these systems to switch customers' local phone service. The following response should be attributed to Daniel J. Whelan, president of Verizon Pennsylvania:

"Today's PUC decision means Pennsylvanians must continue to wait for the additional choice and savings that full communications competition brings. Meanwhile, just across the border in New York - where Verizon has offered long-distance service since January and AT&T and WorldCom are aggressively competing for local residential phone service - consumers are enjoying more than $250 million in savings in their local and long-distance service.

"Each day of delay is a reprieve for AT&T and WorldCom, who are waging a desperate battle to protect their still substantial long-distance revenues. Only when Verizon can offer consumers a full menu of communications services, including long distance, will these companies commit to local competition in earnest.

"There's overwhelming evidence that Verizon has met the requirements for long-distance entry - our excellent performance on the comprehensive third-party test of our systems, data from more than six months of competitors' experience in using our systems and Pennsylvania's burgeoning competitive local market, will.

"We will continue to work toward the day when Pennsylvanians will share in the fruits of full communications competition."