HARRISBURG, Pa. - Verizon Communications has earned high marks in a comprehensive test of its systems that are used to support local phone competition in Pennsylvania, according to KPMG, an independent auditing firm.
Based on the strong test results, Verizon today asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to consider advancing its review of the company's plan to offer the state's residents a competitive choice for long-distance service.
"The KPMG report shows our systems are performing extremely well," said Daniel J. Whelan, president of Verizon Pennsylvania. "This performance proves that Verizon's systems meet the requirements of the Telecommunications Act for long-distance entry. We now will make our case that the local phone market in Pennsylvania is indisputably open.
"Pennsylvania consumers are one day closer to full telecommunications competition."
In submitting its 641-page draft report to the commission today, KPMG noted that it examined 569 "test points" involving Verizon's operating support systems (OSS), which competitors use to switch customers' local phone service from Verizon. The exhaustive testing demonstrated that competitors are able to compete effectively using those systems, as KPMG noted that none of the remaining areas it categorized as "Not Complete" or "Not Satisfied" "have a material adverse impact on competition." Verizon expects to improve its performance in those areas to a satisfactory level by the time KPMG issues its final report 45 days after the initial draft is released.
KPMG test results in Pennsylvania follow a pattern in New York and Massachusetts, where Verizon's systems also performed strongly and received the full endorsement of state regulators. "Competitors and their assorted front groups jumped on whatever they could find in both states, but regulators correctly saw through these wafer-thin tactics," said Whelan.
"Our opponents will continue to complain about our systems' readiness, but all their whining just isn't borne out by the test results or months of actual commercial experience," he added.
In the Pennsylvania test, KPMG set up a mock competitor, known as a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC). KPMG sent orders through Verizon's systems to switch customers from Verizon's local phone service to the mock CLEC. KPMG tested such items as how quickly and accurately Verizon's systems process orders from CLECs for new service, and how well Verizon technicians connect the wires that change a customer's local phone service from Verizon to a CLEC.
"This has been the most exhaustive, comprehensive and expensive review ever conducted by a Pennsylvania agency," said Whelan. "More than 80 competitors today can and do rely on our systems to offer local telephone service in Pennsylvania. Competitors serve more than two million active phone numbers throughout the commonwealth, and WorldCom's recent announcements about entering the local market here only underscore that fact."
In its filing late today, Verizon asked the PUC to move forward the commission's 100-day review of Verizon's readiness before the company files a formal long-distance application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Verizon asked the PUC to begin its review period on or after public release of KPMG's initial draft report.
"Pennsylvanians have been denied the benefits of full competition for too long," said Whelan. "Our excellent performance on the KPMG test, coupled with data from more than six months of competitors' real-world experience using our systems, will present overwhelming evidence that Verizon has met the requirements for long-distance entry."
The PUC's consultation will be considered by the FCC, which ultimately will decide whether Verizon may enter Pennsylvania's long-distance market.
Verizon Communications Inc. (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 101 million access line equivalents and more than 26 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.