Bell Atlantic's chairman and CEO cleared the smokescreen obscuring the telecommunications landscape and declared that his company remains dedicated to opening its local market to competitors.
"I brought Bell Atlantic and NYNEX together for the very purpose of mining the growth opportunities in our rich regional marketplace -- and the only way to do that is by being a full-service, one stop provider," Smith told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute.
In his first major public policy speech since the completion of the merger, Smith reiterated his commitment to achieving this goal to Bell Atlantic customers and shareowners, adding that he feels "a personal sense of urgency to get the job done -- and get it done right."
Committed to competition
"Bell Atlantic has more to gain from long-distance entry than any local telephone company in the country," Smith said. "We are absolutely committed to local competition as the price we pay for cracking the long distance market. That's why Bell Atlantic has done more than anyone else in the country to open our markets to competition," Smith added.
Bell Atlantic has almost 300 interconnection agreements with competitors, including AT&T, MCI and Sprint. Competitive local carriers have already taken a substantial portion of the lucrative business market. Smith also noted Bell Atlantic's landmark merger commitments to the FCC "address every one of the concerns expressed by the interexchange carriers and federal regulators. No other local company has done this."
Smith reported that Bell Atlantic has more than 1,000 people dedicated to serving competitors and has spent close to a billion dollars to open its networks "...which means we've invested more in promoting competitive local entry in our territory than the biggest interexchange carriers have in entering it."
Long distance smokescreen
Smith asserted that there is growing competition in the local phone market, in spite of the reluctance of AT&T, MCI and Sprint. "The best business strategy the IXCs have come up with is to keep Bell Atlantic in regulatory quarantine -- and the best way to do that is not to compete for the residential customer at all," said Smith.
Smith noted that "out of the more than 100,000 resale lines sold in the state of New York as of August, less than one percent -- a mere 700 lines -- were sold by MCI. One small company in Chicago -- USN Communications -- processes more orders in one hour than AT&T has ordered since the Telcom Act was passed." In contrast, companies such as Eastern Telelogic, Teleport, Brooks Fiber and WorldCom are doing business with Bell Atlantic everyday, according to Smith.
"The plain fact is that the FCC -- its vision clouded by the diversionary rhetoric of the big interexchange companies -- has been looking for local competition in all the wrong places," said Smith.
Filing to offer long distance in New York
Smith reported that Bell Atlantic has just completed a test of its operating systems in New York, which showed that Bell Atlantic is "successfully processing five times the numbers of orders we currently see from competitive carriers on any given day." Bell Atlantic is expected to file for long distance entry in New York State with its Public Service Commission in the coming weeks.
Bell Atlantic Corp. (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new communications, entertainment and information industry. In the mid-Atlantic region, Bell Atlantic's telephone company subsidiaries are the premier providers of local telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing high-growth national and international business opportunities in all phases of the industry.