NEWARK, N.J. - Verizon today asked state regulators to support the company's bid to offer long-distance service to New Jersey residents.
In an extensive filing with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the company pointed out that it has fully satisfied federal requirements and that its entry into the long-distance market would bring additional competition in both the local and long-distance markets in the state.
"New Jersey consumers have waited long enough to receive the benefits of the increased competition their neighbors in New York and Pennsylvania currently enjoy," the company stated in its filing.
Verizon New Jersey President Dennis Bone said, "In every state where Verizon offers long-distance service, customers are reaping the benefits of having more choices and they are saving on their phone bills."
In New York, consumers are saving about $700 million annually ($84 to $324 per customer) on local and long-distance services as the result of full competition since Verizon began offering long distance, according to a study by an independent group, the Telecommunications Research Action Center (www.trac.org).
The BPU is currently considering whether to support Verizon's upcoming application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide long-distance service in the Garden State. The BPU's support will be an important factor as Verizon seeks federal approval to offer long distance in New Jersey.
"Verizon will soon file an application with the Federal Communications Commission to offer long-distance service in the Garden State," said Bone. "That means that competitors, like AT&T, soon will get serious about competing with Verizon on all fronts, especially in local phone service. Indeed, experience from other states shows they only do it when Verizon can compete with them for long-distance customers. Any delay in approving Verizon's entry only means that AT&T will continue to stay on the sidelines."
"We've demonstrated that the local telecommunications market here is irreversibly open to competition and we're confident that the board will agree," said Bone, who noted that Rhode Island state regulators recently voted unanimously to support Verizon's long-distance bid there.
In addition to New York and Pennsylvania, in recent months the company also has received the FCC's permission to provide long distance in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Today's filing reiterated that Verizon has demonstrated in great detail that it has met the 14-point competitive checklist outlined in the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. That checklist specifies 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 New Jersey.
When drafting the act, Congress specifically declined to adopt a requirement for a certain amount of local competition before allowing a former Bell company to offer long distance. Such a market-share test would allow competitors to "game the process" by staying on the sidelines, the company noted in its filing. Even so, Bone said, companies like AT&T have done just that in an effort to keep Verizon from competing in long distance.
"Needlessly delaying the consumer benefits of full competition is not in the public interest," the company also noted.
The BPU has conducted several lengthy investigations over the last five years, including an independent, third-party audit of all technical systems used by Verizon's competitors. This comprehensive audit, requiring 19 months to complete, found all 536 tests to be in compliance -- a perfect score that has not been achieved in any other Verizon state.
On Nov. 20, the BPU set new rates for competitors who lease parts of Verizon's network. As part of its review of Verizon's long-distance application, the BPU held eight days of hearings this fall, allowing cross-examination of all the witnesses concerning the checklist. The formal proceeding is scheduled to end Dec. 17.
"The board has done a thorough job of preparing to render its opinion on the 14-point checklist," said Bone.
Today's filing also recapitulates the detailed evidence showing that the local phone market is open and those who want to compete can. Verizon has more than 160 agreements allowing competitors to interconnect with Verizon's network to offer alternative telecom services. Some 13 million telephone numbers have been assigned to competitors who now serve more than 500,000 lines representing 7 percent of the local market in New Jersey.
About 100 competitive local exchange carriers are active in New Jersey, including AT&T, WorldCom, XO Communications and CoreComm. Competitors have access to nearly 90 percent of Verizon's residential lines and more than 94 percent of Verizon's business lines through arrangements in which competitors' equipment is collocated in Verizon's switching offices.
"New Jersey, with its economic reliance on telecommunications, cannot afford to be left behind as consumers elsewhere benefit from full competition in all phone markets," said Bone. "Local competition will accelerate here only when Verizon can offer long-distance services."
To learn more go to www.verizon.com/njld.
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 128.5 million access line equivalents and 28.7 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with 256,000 employees and approximately $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.