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Bell Atlantic Goes To Court Seeking Fair Competition
Company Appeals Delaware PSC Order Limiting Consumer Choices
June 11, 1997
WILMINGTON, Del. -- Bell Atlantic-Delaware today asked a federal court
to overturn a state Public Service Commission (PSC) order that gives
long distance companies an unfair competitive advantage in the local
phone market and limits consumers' choices of telephone services.
At issue is a January 1997 PSC decision ordering Bell
Atlantic-Delaware to provide 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 commission later
ordered the company to begin this customer selection process, known as
presubscription, by Sept. 15.
In its appeal filed in U.S. District Court for the District of
Delaware, the company contends that the PSC has no authority under the
federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 to order presubscription in
Delaware until Bell Atlantic-Delaware or its affiliate can provide
long distance service to its customers.
"Delaware consumers will be shortchanged unless Bell Atlantic is
allowed into long distance at the same time that long distance
companies offer in-state toll service on a presubscribed basis," said
Joshua W. Martin III, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic-Delaware.
"Bell Atlantic has always supported evenhanded competition. All phone
companies must be able to compete in all markets at the same time,
under the same ground rules," Martin said. "Consumers deserve choices
in long distance as well as the local phone market. It's unfair to
deprive customers of the benefits of real competition, and it's a
violation of the letter and spirit of the new federal
The federal law says the state may not require Bell Atlantic-Delaware
to implement presubscription before Bell Atlantic is permitted to
provide long distance phone service or before February 1999,
whichever comes first. However, the PSC order supports the position
of long distance giants, who oppose consumers' rights to real choice
of long distance as well as local phone companies.
"If Bell Atlantic's competitors are able to offer one-stop shopping
for in-state toll and long distance calls before Bell
Atlantic-Delaware can offer both, Bell Atlantic-Delaware will
experience a significant loss of current as well as potential
customers and revenue," Martin said. "It is not clear when Bell
Atlantic-Delaware will receive the necessary regulatory approvals to
enter the long distance market. It is clear, however, that such
approvals could not be obtained before Sept. 15, when pre-selection
for in-state toll is scheduled to begin."
In its appeal, Bell Atlantic-Delaware asks the federal court to delay
the start of presubscription until the court rules on the validity of
the PSC order. In addition, the company is asking the court to block
a May 1997 PSC order requiring Bell Atlantic-Delaware to notify its
customers that the pre-selection process for in-state toll calls is
scheduled to begin on Sept. 15. The company contends that customer
confusion will result if it complies with a PSC directive to provide
bill inserts informing customers of the pre-selection process for
in-state toll calls before the court resolves the presubscription
"Bell Atlantic agrees that presubscription should occur," Martin said.
"The issue is timing. We have done everything we can to open our
local market to competition. But it's clear that our competitors want
to keep us out of their markets for as long as they can, so there's no
reason they should be given a special advantage over Bell Atlantic in
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