The Virginia State Corporation Commission approved the merger of GTE and Bell Atlantic late yesterday. Jim Diaz, president of GTE South and Hugh Stallard, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic - Virginia, said, "We applaud the State Corporation Commission's decision to allow the merger of GTE and Bell Atlantic to move forward. Its action comes as no real surprise. The commission recognizes that this corporate union carries with it numerous tangible benefits for many Virginians."


The approval included the following conditions:


* Extension of a cap on Bell Atlantic's basic service rates through 2003, and reductions in some of GTE's basic service rates in southwest Virginia.

* Elimination of 367 in-state long distance routes, expanding local calling areas for more than a million Bell Atlantic and GTE customers.

* Deployment to GTE customers within 18 to 24 months of services such as Caller ID, Automatic Call Return and Automatic Busy Redial.

* Investment of more than $1.75 billion in Virginia over a three-year period following completion of the merger.


Bell Atlantic and GTE petitioned the SCC last December for approval of their merger. On March 31, the commission dismissed the petition "without prejudice," leaving the door open for both companies to file a revised petition.


The companies are now waiting for decisions on the merger from three states and the Federal Communications Commission.