Record Demand for Phone Lines in 1998
March 4, 1999
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The growth in Bell Atlantic's West Virginia telecommunications network exploded throughout 1998 as the company continued to meet unprecedented demands for additional phone lines.
"In only a decade, our network here has expanded by nearly 25 percent, and most of that growth has occurred in the past two years," said Dennis Bone, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic - West Virginia.
While some of this growth reflects slight population increases and a healthier economic climate, Bone suggested much of it can be tied to the gaining popularity of the Internet and other emerging technologies.
"More and more families need and want additional telephone lines in the home," said Bone. "They may want a separate line for the computer, another for the fax machine, and yet another just for the children."
At the end of 1998, Bell Atlantic - West Virginia had nearly 826,000 telephone access lines in service, representing a net increase of approximately 22,500 over the previous year.
The huge demand for new lines has prompted Bell Atlantic to invest at a record pace to build out its infrastructure. Last year the company spent roughly $130 million on such things as fiber-optic lines and new, state-of- the-art switching systems. Since 1988, Bell Atlantic has invested more than $1 billion in new technology and upgrading of existing facilities in the state.
"When West Virginians place a call or access the Internet, chances are that call will travel over laser light through fiber optic cables," said Bone. A single hair-thin glass fiber is capable of carrying thousands of phone conversations at the same time.
"We have more than 144,000 circuit miles of optical fibers in place in West Virginia, 15,000 miles of which were installed just last year," Bone said.
Part of the company's capital investment in 1998 was earmarked for the continued construction of the state's new WEST VIRGINIA 2001sm network. A key component of this network is Bell Atlantic's asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) cell relay service. With ATM technology, voice, data and video communications can travel over a single phone line at extremely high speeds, providing customers with greater flexibility.
WEST VIRGINIA 2001, launched late in 1997, is already a reality in some parts of the state. Government agencies are finding a myriad of ways to use the network to improve their efficiency and better serve citizens.
Some courts, for example, use WEST VIRGINIA 2001 for remote proceedings. Instead of transporting a prisoner from jail to courtroom via a police vehicle over city streets, WEST VIRGINIA 2001 accomplishes the same task via video running over a fiber-optic "highway." Prisoner and judge are able to see and hear one another through a high-speed video hook-up, making special transportation unnecessary.
The state's major universities and colleges plan to use WEST VIRGINIA 2001 for interactive distance learning. A teacher at Marshall University, for example, can instruct students at multiple locations miles away. The teacher and students are able to see and hear one another and interact in real time. Marshall, West Virginia University and West Virginia Northern Community College currently have WEST VIRGINIA 2001 links.
Bell Atlantic - West Virginia continued to make progress in 1998 in opening its local telephone network to competition. Bell Atlantic has taken the technical and regulatory steps to link its network with competitors who want to provide local phone service in the state. Since the enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Bell Atlantic has entered into agreements with more than 39 companies who have filed with the Public Service Commission to compete for local phone service in West Virginia.
"Bell Atlantic is working hard to make our local phone facilities available to all comers in West Virginia," said Bone. "Doing so will allow Bell Atlantic to offer West Virginians long distance service in competition with AT&T and MCI WorldCom. That's something West Virginians will benefit from, and it's something Bell Atlantic very much wants to do."
Bell Atlantic focused much of its attention last year on enhancing educational opportunities in the state. Through its $10-million WORLD SCHOOLsm initiative, the company has linked all 700 kindergarten through 12th-grade schools in its West Virginia service area to the Internet at speeds of at least 56 kilobits per second (kbps).
Bell Atlantic invested nearly a half-million dollars on WORLD SCHOOL activities in 1998. Of that, $54,000 in grants were awarded to teachers who are finding creative ways to use the Internet to enhance education.
Bell Atlantic reduced certain rates in 1998, continuing a practice that has resulted from 10 years of progressive regulatory oversight by the PSC. Business rates declined by $3.5 million, and businesses benefited from the ability to call a larger area for flat-rate local prices. These latest cuts, combined with price reductions from past years, currently save Bell Atlantic's West Virginia customers nearly $70 million a year.
Bone said the coming year poses enormous challenges to Bell Atlantic as it faces increasing competition in virtually every facet of its business. "We intend to outpace our competitors by providing products that our customers truly need and want, coupled with the highest quality service available anywhere," he said
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 markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.