HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvanians continue to wait for the day when they can join consumers in five other states who now enjoy the choices and
savings of full telecommunications competition.
However, that day may be nearing as Verizon continues to demonstrate it has met federal and state requirements to enter the long-distance market in
Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) currently is considering whether to support Verizon's upcoming application to the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) to provide long-distance service in the Commonwealth.
Verizon today received FCC approval to offer long distance in Massachusetts. Verizon already provides long-distance service in New York. SBC
Communications currently offers long distance in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. The former regional Bell companies must get FCC approval before they can
offer long distance in the states where they provide local phone service.
"The momentum is building, with Massachusetts joining the states that have embraced full telecom competition," said Daniel J. Whelan, president of
Verizon Pennsylvania. "It's now time for Pennsylvanians to have the increased choices and savings that wide-open competition brings."
In New York, full competition has resulted in annual consumer savings of about $220 million in local and long distance, according to a study by the
Telecommunications Research and Action Center. Verizon's competitors -- led by AT&T and WorldCom -- have captured about 20 percent of the
Empire State's local service market, and Verizon now serves a like amount of the long-distance market in that state.
"It's a simple formula, actually -- competition for local phone service heats up as Verizon gets closer to obtaining long-distance approval," said
Whelan. "It happened in New York. It happened in Massachusetts.
"And it's happening in Pennsylvania, where about 40,000 residential customers now switch their local phone service to competitors each month,"
said Whelan. "And that doesn't even include the heavy inroads that competitors continue to make for business customers' local service.
"By any measure, the local market in Pennsylvania is irrevocably open," said Whelan.
In a Jan. 9 filing with the PUC, Verizon sought commission support for the company's proposed long-distance application to the FCC. Verizon's PUC filing
provides extensive detail showing that the company has met a 14-point competitive checklist specified in the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. This
checklist stipulates the criteria former Bell companies must satisfy to demonstrate they have opened their local networks to competitors. Meeting this checklist is
a prerequisite for Verizon to receive federal permission to offer long-distance service in Pennsylvania.
The PUC is reviewing the entire body of evidence from Verizon, its competitors and other parties. The commission staff has held intensive workshops over the
past seven weeks to analyze this evidence, and the five commissioners will hold hearings starting April 25 in Harrisburg.
The PUC also is examining three months of data involving the performance of Verizon's operating support systems, in addition to results of an 18-month
independent test of these systems conducted by KPMG Consulting. Operating support systems are used by competitors when they switch local customers'
service from Verizon to their company.
"When the PUC completes its exhaustive examination of the record, the test results and competitors' actual experience using our computer systems, we're
confident it will support our long-distance application to the FCC," said Whelan.
The FCC has 90 days to review Verizon's long-distance bid once the company completes the PUC's review process and files its application with the FCC. The
Pennsylvania PUC and the U.S. Department of Justice will provide their recommendations to the FCC before it makes a final decision.
"We hope to offer Pennsylvanians another choice for all their telecommunications needs -- including long distance -- by the end of this year," said
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