Bell Atlantic, 34 Telecom Companies Present
Blueprint for Competition to Pennsylvania
Consumers, Businesses to Save Millions under Alternative
Plan Aimed at Breaking Overpriced Long Distance Cartel
April 23, 1999
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Bell Atlantic today urged the
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to accept an innovative
approach to telecommunications competition that will deliver $300 million
in savings on customers' long distance bills, freeze Bell Atlantic's basic
local rates for the next five years, accelerate competition for local and long
distance service, and lower the phone bills of many rural Pennsylvanians.
In presenting written testimony on the plan, Bell Atlantic - Pennsylvania
President and CEO Daniel J. Whelan urged commissioners to disregard
the heated rhetoric generated by AT&T, MCI WorldCom and Sprint and
accept the proposal, which is backed by 35 incumbent and competitive
telecommunications companies across the Commonwealth.
Whelan noted that, contrary to the misleading propaganda circulated by
the long distance giants and the cable companies, the local competitors'
proposal expands a safety net to low-income "Lifeline"
telephone customers. The plan offers greater potential local savings to
businesses, provides an enhanced customer education program, and cuts
the interconnection prices the long distance cartel claims it needs to
compete locally. The local companies' alternative also includes a clear
road map for Bell Atlantic to provide long distance service in
Some of the provisions, particularly the long distance and local savings,
could take effect as soon as the PUC approves the proposal.
"Unlike the plan put together by a cadre of cable and long distance
companies bent on keeping Bell Atlantic out of their long distance
business, this proposal was designed by smaller, more nimble competitors
who are unafraid of the challenges of the marketplace," Whelan
said. "Our plan was hammered out after five months of difficult
negotiations, and it allows us all to realize the benefits of accelerated
competition in that marketplace today, rather than returning to an endless
cycle of litigation and delay.
"We want to respond to our customers who have had enough of the
opponents' stalling tactics and mean-spirited accusations," Whelan
added. "This plan is fair to all parties involved. It is realistic. And
it provides the road map to the full, robust competition in all intrastate
telecommunications markets we've been awaiting for three years. The
plan should be adopted now."
Whelan warned the PUC that a proposal offered by the long distance
carriers, the cable industry, and their front groups (masquerading as
consumer organizations,) is a deep cause for concern across the
For example, Whelan noted that the long distance carriers' press
statements do not quantify the "tens of millions" the
companies demand in access charge reductions, nor do they promise that
all reductions would be shared with consumers. Long distance carriers
routinely provide only limited savings to their most favored business
customers and pocket the rest when local phone companies cut these fees.
The long distance giants' plan also would lock in millions in windfall
profits these companies and others receive each year by pretending that
Internet calls handed off from Bell Atlantic -- Pennsylvania to competitors
qualify for "reciprocal compensation" payments.
"The long distance companies' proposal sends a strong message to
consumers across the Commonwealth: Buyer Beware," Whelan said.
"There is a lot of fine print in that plan, which would allow the long
distance giants to line their pockets and bankroll their purchases of cable
companies. Those dollars should be used to provide savings for
consumers and local competitors.
"In submitting our testimony, we ask the PUC to do right by
consumers. The commission can end the delaying tactics, jump-start
competition, and deliver millions of dollars in customer benefits to rural,
suburban, and urban Pennsylvanians."
Bell Atlantic's filing marks the beginning of a review process that is
expected to last into the summer. A final decision from the PUC is
expected in early September.
Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry.
With more than 42 million telephone access lines and 8.6 million wireless customers
worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice
and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of
directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest
investors in high-growth communications markets, with operations and investments in