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WASHINGTON -- As the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 marks its fifth anniversary on Thursday (2/8), Verizon says that one of the key objectives of the act -- promoting competition in local telephony -- is being fulfilled. However, the company notes that another key objective -- spurring the development of advanced telecommunications services -- is in serious jeopardy.
"Our greatest challenge will be to stop the regulatory creep -- that is to keep regulation meant for yesterday's telephone markets from migrating to the Internet world of advanced services and broadband deployment," said Tom Tauke, senior vice president for Public Policy and External Affairs at Verizon. "The government must adopt a regulatory framework that encourages competition, innovation and investment in broadband technologies."
The company reports that local telephone competition is flourishing with lines served by competitors doubling in the last year. Now competitors control almost 10 percent of the local phone lines in Verizon's Northeast serving area.
"There is no denying that the door to local phone competition is wide open," said Tauke. "Consumers in New York state, where local and long distance competition have taken hold, are benefiting to the tune of $220 million a year in lower phone bills."
For the first time, the amount of time consumers are spending on rival telephone companies' networks has topped the 100-billion-minutes-mark for a single year. In 2000, more than 140 billion minutes of use were exchanged between Verizon and its in-region competitors.
"Verizon is committed to bringing full choice to consumers throughout its nationwide serving area," said Ed Young, senior vice president for Federal Government Relations at Verizon. "The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted to promote competition and innovation. Consumers are now starting to reap those benefits for local service in earnest."
Verizon is in the final stages of review of its application to offer long-distance service in Massachusetts. The Federal Communications Commission should complete its review by the end of April. Verizon expects to file the remaining applications in 11 other states by mid-2002.