Bell Atlantic Moves to Enter Long Distance Market in New Jersey

Bell Atlantic Moves to Enter Long Distance Market in New Jersey

Proposes Measures to Hasten Local Competition

November 16, 1998

Media contact: Maureen Flanagan, 212-395-0500

NEWARK, N.J. -- Bell Atlantic - New Jersey today outlined a series of commitments to promote competition in the state's local telephone market in exchange for an endorsement from the state's Board of Public Utilities (BPU) for the company to provide long distance service.

The company's filing comes as the BPU, Bell Atlantic and competitors seeking to provide local phone service in the state begin discussions to determine how best to increase local phone competition in New Jersey, especially for residential customers.

"Bell Atlantic is proposing commitments tailored to the competitive and regulatory environment in New Jersey in an effort to accelerate competition in the state's already thriving local phone market," said William M. Freeman, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic - New Jersey.

"At the same time, we're working closely with the BPU and our competitors to ensure that Bell Atlantic's long distance filing will receive the Board's support and the approval of the Federal Communications Commission. The sooner we're allowed into the long distance business, the sooner we can provide customers with a full range of communications products and services."

The $8 billion telecommunications market in New Jersey is one of the largest in Bell Atlantic's region, with nearly half -- $3.8 billion - representing the long distance market.

Bell Atlantic cannot enter the long distance market until it demonstrates the company has opened its local markets to competition by meeting a 14-point checklist detailed in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The company's proposal to the BPU includes:

  • An offer to combine different elements of Bell Atlantic's network for basic residential local service and residential ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) service, making it easier for competitors to provide local phone service. This combining of network parts-- known as the unbundled network element platform-- would be available to the company's competitors at a nominal monthly fee in addition to the price of the network parts for two years after the date Bell Atlantic begins to provide long distance service in New Jersey.

  • Development of a comprehensive process to make it easier for competing local telephone companies to do business with Bell Atlantic. This process - much of which already has been implemented - will include developing a database to track escalation of service-related problems, written procedures for reporting and escalating service-related problems, establishment of a service center dedicated to processing local service requests of competitors and a measurement process to gauge the center's performance.

  • Computer connections, specified by national standards bodies, that allow competing local companies to tie their systems directly to Bell Atlantic's operating support systems for pre- ordering, ordering, provisioning, maintenance, repair and billing.

Competition is already well under way in New Jersey. To date, 35 companies have applied to offer local service in the state; 28 have received approval from the BPU. Bell Atlantic has sold more than 35,000 lines to competitors for resale, most of which are for residential customers, and has leased numerous facilities and lines to competitors for links to their own networks.

As of September 1998, competitors in New Jersey held 5.5 million phone numbers that could be assigned to potential new customers. In addition, competitors have access to all phone numbers throughout the state through local number portability, which allows customers to keep their phone number when they change their local phone company.

"Bell Atlantic has facilitated local phone competition in New Jersey for years," said Freeman. "The commitments in our filing are designed to make it even easier for competitors to enter the field so that businesses and residents from Newark to Cape May have a choice for their local phone company."

Bell Atlantic made an initial long distance filing with the New York Public Service Commission last year, the first state where the company is seeking to offer long distance service. That proposal received conditional support from then New York State Public Service Commission Chairman John O'Mara, the Department of Justice anti-trust chief Joel Klein and the Consumer Federation of America, an organization strongly in favor of the need to open local markets to competition. Bell Atlantic also filed a blueprint for local competition and long distance entry in Pennsylvania.

"We are dedicated to the process the BPU has designed to ensure a vibrant competitive local marketplace in New Jersey," said Freeman. "The commitments we have proposed go well beyond the requirements of the Telecommunications Act and will accelerate the BPU's process by furthering competition in the local market.

"New Jersey consumers will realize the promise of the Telecommunications Act when all players are allowed to offer all services. Bell Atlantic is committed to becoming a full service provider, able to offer all our customers the benefits of choice, increased competition and the convenience of one-stop shopping."

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With 42 million telephone access lines and eight 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.

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