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Bell Atlantic Prepares for Future in West Virginia
Federal Legislation Sets Stage for Customer Choices in
February 26, 1997
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Competition. Growth. Innovation.
They made it a
busy 1996 for Bell Atlantic-West Virginia. While the company worked
to implement landmark federal telecommunications legislation, it also
had to accommodate strong growth in the state's economy and customer
demand for service.
"The entire telecommunications landscape changed in 1996, and Bell
Atlantic is very well-positioned to take advantage of the new
opportunities that are being created," said Dennis Bone,
Atlantic-West Virginia president and CEO. "We have the network, the
people and the expertise to better serve our customers in this new
Legislation to Speed Introduction of
In February 1996, the federal Telecommunications Act became law,
updating rules that had governed the industry for more than 60 years.
The new law creates competition for local, long distance and video
Bell Atlantic-West Virginia is working hard to comply with the
legislation, taking the technical and regulatory steps to link its
network with competitors who want to offer local phone service in the
The state's telecommunications market is becoming increasingly
competitive. More than 90 companies are authorized by the West
Virginia Public Service Commission [PSC] to provide regional toll
services in direct competition with Bell Atlantic. Another five
companies now are authorized to provide local telephone service. To
do that, they must negotiate agreements to resell Bell Atlantic's
telecommunications services or interconnect their networks.
The PSC is expected to decide on a number of critical issues this year,
including the rules for local competition in West Virginia. "Bell
Atlantic is actively participating in this process, since it's a
prerequisite to our gaining the ability to provide long distance
services to West Virginians," said Bone. "We're moving closer
day when consumers will have a real choice in who provides their
communications services, whether local or long distance."
Price Cuts Continue
At the end of the year, Bell Atlantic cut the price of
service in half, saving West Virginia customers $3.5 million annually.
The company began phasing out this charge in 1995 and will eliminate
the Touch-Tone charge on Jan. 1, 1998. The introduction of Bell
Atlantic's Automatic Savings Plan in the middle of 1996 will save
residential customers another $3.3 million a year. The Automatic
Savings Plan gives these customers an automatic discount of up to 20
percent on their Bell Atlantic-carried regional toll calls.
These cuts, combined with prior years' price reductions, will save
Bell Atlantic's West Virginia customers more than $35 million a year
by the end of 1998.
In fact, prices for local service and Bell Atlantic-carried regional
toll calls will have decreased or remained stable from 1985 through
early 1998 - nearly 13 years. Meanwhile, the consumer price index has
increased by approximately 53 percent over the same period.
Year Marked by Solid Growth
Bell Atlantic-West Virginia experienced strong growth in 1996. The
company had more than 780,000 access lines in service at the end of
the year, an annual gain of more than 19,000 lines. This growth has
led the company to add more than 50 employees at its work operations
in Charleston and Clarksburg to handle customer requests for new
services. Bell Atlantic currently has nearly 3,000 employees in West
Virginia, with an annual payroll in excess of $125 million.
Bell Atlantic continued to modernize its West Virginia
telecommunications infrastructure last year. The company now has
installed 117,000 circuit miles of high-speed fiber-optic cable
throughout the state. Fiber optics and the company's all-digital
switching network can provide rural and urban customers services such
as ISDN [Integrated
Services Digital Network], Home Voice Mail,
ID Deluxe and
Call Blocking. Bell Atlantic invested more than
$88 million in 1996, and more than $1.3 billion since 1984, in its West
Bell Atlantic continues to install fiber-optic synchronous optical
"rings" in West Virginia's larger cities. These
SONET rings offer major customers seamless, survivable
telecommunications services. That is, if a cable is accidentally cut,
telephone calls are re-routed automatically in a different direction
on the ring to ensure that a customer's service isn't interrupted.
Last year the company introduced several innovative services,
including Easy Voice, a
voice-activated dialing system; Call Gate, a
service that allows customers to control calls made from their phones;
and Talking Return
Call, which provides the phone number of the last
person who called along with the ability to automatically return that
Partnerships Pay Off
Bell Atlantic is renowned for using its advanced telecommunications
technology to address issues in critical areas such as education,
economic development and health care. In 1996, Bell Atlantic made
great strides in linking the state's kindergarten through
twelfth-grade public schools to the Internet through the nearly $10
million Bell Atlantic®
WORLD SCHOOLsm program. More than 520 schools
now are cruising the Internet, and the company expects to bring nearly
all 700 schools in its West Virginia service area online by late
spring. Bell Atlantic-West Virginia also has awarded more than
$203,000 to innovative educators over the past two years through its
WORLD SCHOOL Grant Program.
In the area of health care, Bell Atlantic distributed $231,000 in
grants under its HEALTH
CONNECT program to support six
forward-looking projects that use technology to help improve health care.
The Office of the Future program, a partnership between Bell Atlantic
and the State of West Virginia, enjoyed another fruitful year in
attracting information-intensive businesses to the state.
Announcements of new teleservices centers in Weston by American
and Fairmont by
Edward Blank Associates - coupled
with the opening of operations in Charleston and Beckley by TeleSpectrum
Worldwide - have raised the tally of jobs created since the program's
inception in 1990 to more than 10,000.
Bell Atlantic Corp. (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.