Bell Atlantic Offers Framework for
Expanding Telecommunications Competition
in New Jersey
Company Urges Legislative Panel to Focus on Opening All
May 27, 1999
TRENTON, N.J. -- Competition in New Jersey's local phone market
should be expanded to all communications markets, the company told a
state Senate panel today.
"With dozens of telecommunications firms vying for local phone
dollars, it's time to consider a pro-competitive, pro-consumer approach for
the entire industry," said William M. Freeman, president and CEO,
Bell Atlantic -- New Jersey. "As the competitive landscape
continues to change at warp speed, public policymakers should seize the
opportunity to foster open networks across all industries, while adopting
strategies that keep local phone rates affordable for all consumers."
Bell Atlantic's efforts to open its local network to any competitor have
jump-started local competition, but the company currently is prohibited
from offering long distance service. Testifying before the Senate
Commerce Committee, Freeman offered legislators a five-step strategy for
ensuring that no particular industry or customer group is disadvantaged
during this time of great industry change:
- Encourage policies that open all markets to all
competitors now. Long distance, local, data and cable markets
must all be opened. Freeman noted this is of "paramount
importance as consolidation among long distance and cable
industries gains momentum."
- Discourage the creation of closed systems. AT&T's
deals with TCI, Comcast, Time Warner and MediaOne mean
that one company would control cable systems to 95 percent
of all homes in New Jersey. If these deals are permitted to go
forward, state public policymakers should ensure that these
cable systems, currently closed to competitors, are opened so
that customers will have choices for their Internet, local phone
and long distance providers.
- Adopt telecommunications policy with an eye toward
economic growth. A pro-competitive approach across all
sectors will touch the lives of every New Jerseyan, and can
have a positive ripple effect on the state's tax revenues, job
growth and its ability to attract new, information-intensive
- Ensure the rules of the road are fair to all. No single
industry player should be disadvantaged by any part of the
legislature's review process or recommendations. If access
charges are reduced, for example, long distance companies
must pass those savings on to all consumers. Above all,
reductions must not be pocketed to bankroll acquisitions.
- Protect consumers. Whether the legislature endorses a
full, immediate, open market approach to all competition, or
whether it proceeds at a more measured pace, the subsidies that
protect local phone consumers should remain intact while a
new framework is developed. Basic local rates must stay
affordable and the safety nets that assure universal access for
customers must be protected.
"We're confident this committee will rise above partisan politics and
ignore the heated, inaccurate rhetoric generated by some of the long
distance companies, their phony front groups and their 'hired- gun'
economists," Freeman said. "The state has a golden
opportunity to build upon the progress Bell Atlantic has made in opening
the local phone market to competitors. The process will be successful if it
leads to choice for cable, continued choice for an Internet Service Provider
and real choice for long distance service."
Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and
information industry. With 43 million telephone access lines and nine
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.