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Bell Atlantic Urges Commonwealth Court To Reverse PUC Telecom Order

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Bell Atlantic Urges Commonwealth Court To Reverse PUC Telecom Order

Commission's Errors 'Infect Entire Global Order;' Full Telecom Competition Delayed for All Pennsylvanians

May 17, 2000


Sharon Shaffer ,
Office: 215-963-6200 or 412-633-5574

Pager: 800-467-3700 PIN 6063075

Harry Mitchell,
Office: 304-344-7562

Pager: 800-946-4646 PIN 1460309

PHILADELPHIA - Bell Atlantic today asked Commonwealth Court to reverse the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's (PUC's) 1999 global telecommunications order that would break the company into two parts, citing numerous unlawful actions by the commission.

"The PUC abandoned any adherence to law and due process by imposing an unlawful, unwarranted and extreme penalty - the forced breakup of Bell Atlantic's Pennsylvania operations," said Julia A. Conover, vice president and general counsel of Bell Atlantic - Pennsylvania.

"It's unfortunate that, while we fight these legal battles, Pennsylvanians continue to suffer from delayed full telecommunications competition," said Conover. "We want to compete in the marketplace, not the courtroom. But we also must defend the rights of our employees, shareholders and customers."

The commission violated Bell Atlantic's due process rights in significant ways in the global telecommunications negotiation process. For example, the PUC ordered the breakup of Bell Atlantic - Pennsylvania without evidence of any wrongdoing, without a trial and without having the legal authority to order the company to split in two.

"Due process violations such as these infect the entire PUC order," she added. "The commission departed so completely from any orderly procedure that its whole order should be reversed."

The PUC's violations of law are particularly egregious in its radical, unprecedented requirement to break Bell Atlantic into two separate companies in Pennsylvania. "The commission did not and does not have the statutory power to split Bell Atlantic into two," said Conover. "Furthermore, the commission did not give Bell Atlantic adequate notice of any alleged misdeeds by the company or demonstrate a factual basis for imposing such a draconian penalty."

Conover contrasted the PUC's rush to judgment resulting in its structural separation requirement with the federal government's handling of the Microsoft antitrust case. In the Microsoft case, "There were 78 days of trial, 2,000 government exhibits, 200 pages of findings of fact and 40 pages of findings of law - all in a federal antitrust court - before the federal court concluded that Microsoft was guilty of violating the Sherman Act and the laws of 19 states," she said. "And, only after an extensive proceeding is a structural separation remedy just now being considered.

"By contrast, Bell Atlantic has not been found guilty by the commission of violating any law and there have been no findings of law or formal findings of fact. Yet the remedy - cleaving of our company into two - has been predetermined.

"Bell Atlantic has the law and the facts on its side," said Conover. "But our opponents are trying to obscure those critical details in their ongoing attempt to hobble Bell Atlantic.

"I am confident they will not be able to continue to do so."

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With more than 44 million telephone access lines and more than 20 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.