Bell Atlantic: Time for Consumers to Reap Benefits of the Telecommunications Act

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NEW YORK -- Bell Atlantic President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Cullen today called for an end to three years of regulatory delay that has kept Bell Atlantic out of the long distance telephone market.

"The competitive landscape in New York and everywhere else is changing at warp speed. Technology and the realities of the market are outpacing regulation," Cullen said. "The Telecommunications Act is only three years old, but the rules for regulating the industry are outmoded. Public policy should encourage competition, not stifle it."

Cullen's message was part of the United States Telephone Association's (USTA) news conference, "Resolve to Solve: Don't Hang-Up on Telecom Deregulation."

Speaking from the heart of New York City, Times Square, Cullen says New Yorkers can find just about anything they want at any time of the day from a Rueben sandwich at 3 a.m. to a leather jacket to electronic equipment. But, Cullen points out that the one thing New Yorkers can't do is walk over to the pay phone and place a call using Bell Atlantic long distance service. The same applies to those who live and work in the apartments and businesses nearby.

"The bottom line is that most consumers are still held captive by the Big Three long distance companies. Consumers want one stop shopping and choice from companies that they trust, like Bell Atlantic," Cullen said.

Cullen said that Bell Atlantic must be allowed to offer long distance service to make the market competitive and bring consumers the benefits the act envisioned. Cullen added that consumers are tired of the deceptive tactics used by the Big Three long distance companies that range from employing confusing marketing plans to slamming to using phony front groups to make the case against local phone companies' entry into the long distance market.

"Three years after the Telecommunications Act, Bell Atlantic has met the requirements in the act. Our markets are irreversibly open to competition," Cullen said.

Bell Atlantic has dedicated 1,000 employees and is spending more than $1 billion to open its local markets to competitors. Bell Atlantic has built systems that make it easier for competitors to compete and those systems have the ability to handle several thousand orders a day from competitors.

Bell Atlantic filed its long distance application in New York with the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) in November 1997. In April 1998, Bell Atlantic received conditional approval for its long distance application from then-NY PSC Chairman John O'Mara, as well as from U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Chief Joel Klein. Bell Atlantic is the only company to have received support for its entry into long distance from the U.S. Department of Justice. Bell Atlantic's application also has won the support of the Consumer Federation of America. Bell Atlantic plans to file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to offer long distance in New York soon.

"Consumers will benefit when the FCC approves our application in New York," Cullen said. "I urge you to join me and send a wake up call to Washington from the city that never sleeps."

Video of Cullen's full remarks will be available Monday, February 8 from 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at C Band: Galaxy 6/Transponder 9/Audio 6.2 and 6.8.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With more than 42 million telephone access lines and 8.6 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.

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