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BACKGROUND - AT&T continues to press its claims to the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) that it deserves a deep reduction in the in-state access charges it pays to Verizon, promising lower long-distance rates for consumers. Local telephone companies like Verizon charge long-distance companies for completing calls over the local companies' networks. Revenues from these "access charges" help pay for the huge investment in the local telephone network, keeping customers' local phone rates affordable throughout the state. The Maryland PSC and other state commissions have followed such a policy for decades. The following may be attributed to Harry Mitchell, Verizon director-media relations:
"AT&T has brought its traveling road show to Maryland, promising savings if the Public Service Commission drastically cuts the charges long-distance companies pay local phone companies for completing calls over the local network. However, a reduction of the magnitude AT&T is pushing would effectively allow the long-distance companies to escape paying for their fair share of the use of that network and helping to keep local phone service affordable.
"In a sense, AT&T and the other long-distance companies would get a free ride on Verizon's Maryland network, while the burden falls to Verizon and, ultimately, our customers. There's no question that a large reduction in access charges would create pressure to raise prices for local phone service.
"In addition, people should not hold their breath waiting for AT&T and others to pass along any savings. AT&T's record in passing savings from prior access-charge reductions to all its customers is dismal. And any benefit from such reductions would be short-lived for residential and small business customers, as AT&T would merely increase and add other fees a few months down the road.
"It's ironic that AT&T is lobbying so hard for these huge reductions when it will raise its basic interstate long-distance rates 11 percent on July 1. AT&T is playing an elaborate shell game, as it has done so often in other states and on the federal level. Marylanders should not be hoodwinked into thinking this is anything more than another money grab by AT&T."
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.