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DOVER, Del. -- The Delaware Public Service Commission (PSC) today decided that a key requirement of the new federal telecommunications law does not apply in Delaware and ordered Bell Atlantic-Delaware to provide, by July 31, 1997, a method for all telephone customers to pre-select a phone company to carry their in-state toll calls, just as they choose a long distance company today.
The federal law says the pre-selection process for regional toll calls should begin when regional Bell companies can provide long distance service or by February, 1999, whichever comes first.
A fundamental principle of the act is that consumers will see the benefits of true competition only when all markets are opened to all competitors at the same time under the same ground rules. However, the PSC order adopts the view of telecommunications giants AT&T and MCI, who oppose the evenhanded competition mandated by the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Bell Atlantic plans to offer long distance service as soon as possible after complying with competitive safeguards required by the legislation. However, there are no guarantees that the company will be allowed to enter the long distance business by a specific date.
Joshua W. Martin III, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic-Delaware, expressed doubt that the PSC decision will promote fair competition in Delaware. "Bell Atlantic has always supported simultaneous removal of all barriers that impede competition and customer choice," said Martin. "We are concerned about tilting the regulatory playing field in favor of our competitors. Huge telecommunications conglomerates such as AT&T and MCI-British Telecom do not need special treatment to be able to compete with Bell Atlantic-Delaware.
"Delaware residents will be disadvantaged and confused unless Bell Atlantic is allowed to fully compete with AT&T and MCI in long distance markets these companies have fought so hard to keep us out of," Martin said. Martin said implementing the customer selection process for in-state toll calls, known as presubscription, before Bell Atlantic can enter long distance markets will limit meaningful customer choices in long distance services and remove incentives for long distance companies to lower rates.
"Bell Atlantic-Delaware already offers the lowest in-state toll rates of any Bell operating company in the nation," Martin said. "Customers would not have been disadvantaged by introducing presubscription once the long distance cartel is exposed to real competition."
Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new communications, entertainment and information industry. In the mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider 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.