WASHINGTON - In a move to bring Pennsylvanians the benefits of all-out competition for their telecommunications services, Verizon Pennsylvania today filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to offer long-distance service in the state.
"The record is clear and compelling: It's time for Verizon to offer long-distance service to Pennsylvanians," said Daniel J. Whelan, president of Verizon Pennsylvania. "Competition in Pennsylvania's local telephone market is thriving, and both businesses and consumers throughout the commonwealth have choices for local service. They now deserve to have Verizon as a choice for long-distance service."
Pennsylvania is the fourth state where Verizon has applied for approval to offer long distance. As a former regional Bell company, Verizon must get FCC approval before it can offer long distance in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states where it provides local phone service.
The FCC has 90 days to review Verizon's long-distance application. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the U.S. Department of Justice will provide their recommendations to the FCC before it makes its final decision.
On June 6, Verizon received the PUC's support, subject to several conditions to which the company agreed the following day.
Today's filing demonstrates in great detail that Verizon has met the 14-point competitive checklist outlined in the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. That checklist specifies the criteria regional Bell companies must satisfy to demonstrate they have opened their local networks to competitors. Meeting this checklist is a pre-requisite for Verizon to receive federal permission to offer long-distance service in Pennsylvania.
"Verizon has invested more than $1 billion to ensure that competitors have access to our telecommunications network, and thousands of Verizon men and women work hard to provide competitors with outstanding service," said Tom Tauke, Verizon senior vice president-public policy and external affairs. "Verizon's local markets are irreversibly open to competition."
Verizon's FCC filing comes after a comprehensive, two-year review of the company's readiness by the PUC. In making its decision to support Verizon's long-distance application, the state commission examined an exhaustive body of evidence from Verizon, its competitors and other parties - including voluminous testimony, seven weeks of technical workshops and three days of hearings - to determine if Pennsylvania's local phone market is open to competition.
The PUC also scrutinized the performance of Verizon's operations support systems. Competitors use these computer systems to switch Verizon customers' local service to their companies. The PUC analyzed three months of data on these systems' actual performance, along with the results of a thorough, 18-month system test conducted by an independent auditing firm selected by the PUC.
"The PUC's decision validates that competition is flourishing and accelerating rapidly in Pennsylvania," said Whelan. And the FCC filing provides ample evidence of local competition in Pennsylvania:
- Competitors are providing approximately one million local phone lines across the state.
- Competitors and Verizon are exchanging roughly two billion minutes of traffic - voice calls, data transmissions - each month over their networks.
- Verizon has more than 370,000 trunk lines linking its network with those of its competitors and approximately 2,000 collocation arrangements in which competitors' communications equipment is located in Verizon's switching offices. As a result, competitors have access to 90 percent of residential and business phone lines in the state.
- Approximately 200 companies are authorized to provide local service in Pennsylvania. The PUC has approved 178 agreements between Verizon and competitors to link their networks for local service, and nearly 100 companies currently use Verizon's computer systems to serve their Pennsylvania customers.
Verizon's performance is excellent across the board in all areas, including on-time performance in providing competitors with interconnection trunks, physical collocation arrangements, voice-grade phone lines, unbundled DSL-capable (digital subscriber line) loops, as well as in filling line-sharing orders. Verizon's performance level under PUC-approved measurements in all these areas is 96 percent or better.
Verizon's operations support systems are handling large and increasing commercial volumes with excellent results. For example, in the first four months of this year, Verizon's:
- Pre-ordering systems processed more than 1.8 million transactions, more than in all of 2000.
- Ordering systems processed more than 600,000 transactions, more than three times in the same period last year.
- Maintenance and repair systems processed more than 39,000 transactions.
- Billing systems created more than 360 million call records, more than three times the number in the same period last year.
Whelan noted that when Verizon is permitted to provide long distance Pennsylvanians will benefit from full competition for all telecommunications services. According to a new study by the telecom-focused consumer group Telecommunications Research & Action Center, New Yorkers are saving up to $700 million annually on local and long-distance service as a result of additional competition.
"These savings came only after Verizon began offering long-distance service in the Empire State last year," said Whelan. "It's time Pennsylvanians had the same opportunity to choose among all carriers - including Verizon - for their local, long-distance and data communications. As New Yorkers have discovered, the benefits would be significant and immediate."
Verizon made history in December 1999 in New York when it became the first Bell company to gain FCC approval to offer long-distance service in its own service area, enabling the company to provide one-stop shopping for domestic and international telecommunications services to all its customers there. In April, the company received the FCC's approval to provide long distance in Massachusetts. Verizon also expects the FCC to issue a decision this summer on the company's pending application to provide long-distance service in Connecticut.
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 112 million access line equivalents and 27 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with approximately 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.