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Bell Atlantic Asks What's Big Deal About 'Big Deal'
Company Urges SCC to Reject AT&T Gripe as Baseless,
September 22, 1998
RICHMOND, Va. -- A 50-percent savings is a big deal to most people.
But, when Bell Atlantic offered that kind of savings to customers, AT&T
tried to stop it.
Bell Atlantic this month launched its Big Deal, a discount plan that
provides as much as a 50-percent savings on optional services like Caller
ID Deluxe and Call Forwarding. Customers who use Bell Atlantic's local
and regional long distance service qualify for the plan.
"AT&T is unhappy that the Big Deal will make Bell Atlantic's local and
regional toll service less expensive, thereby making it more difficult for
AT&T to compete. Bell Atlantic says the Big Deal is simply an example
of how consumers benefit from competition in a free enterprise
marketplace," said Hugh Stallard, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic -
For $17.99 a month, a customer subscribing to the Big Deal would receive
all of the following services: Caller ID Deluxe, Call Forwarding, Call
Waiting, Return Call, Easy Voice, Speed Calling 30, Ultra Forward,
Intercom Extra, IdentaRing, Three-Way Calling, Repeat Call and Call
Block. (Each of these services is described in Bell Atlantic's Customer
Guide, located in the front of the white pages directory.)
"We simply want to encourage our customers to take advantage of more of
our services," Stallard said.
AT&T, however, has filed a complaint with the Virginia State Corporation
Commission, claiming that Bell Atlantic's practice of rewarding loyal
customers is anti-competitive.
"It seems that, whenever we try to help our customers, the long distance
giants stand in the way. A few years ago MCI tried in vain to block our
efforts to give our customers larger local calling areas. MCI said that was
anti-competitive, too," Stallard said.
"Now AT&T maintains that we shouldn't be allowed to give discounts to
our most loyal customers who choose Bell Atlantic," he added. "AT&T
says it's anti-competitive, yet that company gives discounts to its own
customers for brand loyalty every day.
"I hope AT&T is right. We certainly want to package our products and
services so that they're more attractive to customers. AT&T and our other
competitors are doing the same thing," Stallard said.
"It's amazing that when we come up with a plan, like Big Deal, that
provides residential customers with the benefits of competition, our
competitors try to block it through the regulatory process," he added.
Stallard said that AT&T is not competing today for local phone service,
not because the market isn't open, but because it simply has chosen not to
do so. "If and when AT&T decides to compete locally, I expect that
customers who choose AT&T for both local and long distance service will
get special offers from AT&T," he said.
"If this type of regulatory gamesmanship by AT&T isn't on the radar
screen of consumer organizations, it ought to be. It's a big deal, in more
ways than one," Stallard said. "The commission didn't let MCI stop the
benefits last time, and we're confident the SCC won't let AT&T keep these
benefits from Virginians this time."
Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information
industry. With more than 41 million telephone access lines and more than
seven 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 global communications markets, with operations
and investments in 23 countries.