May 2, 1996


The new Bell Atlantic will create more choices and strengthen communities, CEO claims

St. Petersburg, Fla. -- Bell Atlantic and NYNEX will demonstrate to regulators who will review their announced merger that the deal will create even more competition in telecommunications markets, Bell Atlantic Chairman and CEO Raymond W. Smith told regulators meeting in Florida Wednesday night.

"You're right to be concerned about the social consequences of industry restructuring," said Raymond W. Smith, chairman and CEO of Bell Atlantic. "That's why we'll be working with you closely to make sure that you're comfortable with our plans to improve service, invest in our communities, and open our networks on fair and equitable terms."

Smith, addressing an audience at the KMB Video Regulatory Conference last night, said the loudest naysayers -- such as AT&T -- misunderstand the nature of the new competitive environment created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. "We have more incentive now -- not less -- to open our local markets quickly, if only because of the $20 billion opportunity that awaits us in the long distance market," he said. "This merger will increase competition, not lessen it, and our country will be stronger for it."

Smith urged regulators to define the rules of the road quickly and to think creatively as they reconsider their roles as guardians of the public interest. The complicated path to opening new markets and fostering competition can be made much simpler, he said, if governments adhere to three guiding principles:

  • PRESERVE THE SAFETY NET. Regulators should protect all Americans' right to affordable local phone service, and ensure that all carriers share responsibility for universal service. However, competition -- not regulation -- should provide for low cost Internet access and interactive video. Locally controlled partnerships involving businesses, state and local officials and parents should encourage the introduction of new technologies in the classroom.

  • ESTABLISH GUIDELINES, NOT RESTRICTIONS. Smith urged regulators to provide general guidelines that encourage competitors to agree to enter each other's markets fairly and quickly. "Give state commissioners the incentive and flexibility to craft rules that are best for the very different circumstances found from state to state -- and give phone companies the flexibility to negotiate terms that recognize those differences," he said.

  • KEEP THINGS SIMPLE. The ultimate goal of the new telecommunications law encourages new players to enter the market. "Competition thrives when regulatory hurdles and bureaucratic complexities are kept to a minimum," Smith pointed out.

Smith noted that while deregulation sometimes creates consolidation among industries, it also leads to the birth of dozens of new contestants. Those smaller companies, Smith predicted, will be able to compete with the new Bell Atlantic -- and even take advantage of the company's state-of-the-art network -- as long as the rules of the game are fair.

"Many of our markets are vibrantly competitive already, with more potential competitors lining up at the gates: cable companies, long distance companies, alternative access providers, and wireless companies, just to name a few."

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.


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Ray Smith Speech: KMB Video Regulatory Conference

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