Verizon Asks PUC to Support Company's Request To Offer Long Distance in Pennsylvania

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania consumers are a major step closer to enjoying full telecommunications competition, as Verizon Communications today notified the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) that it soon plans to file an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to offer long-distance service in the state.

Saying that the local phone market is obviously and irreversibly open to competition, Verizon is taking the next step in its bid to offer long-distance service to consumers and businesses in Pennsylvania.

The PUC requires that Verizon notify the commission 100 days in advance of its intent to file a long-distance application with the FCC. Verizon is seeking the PUC's support of its long-distance application.

"It's time for Pennsylvanians to reap the benefits of full telecommunications competition," said Daniel J. Whelan, president of Verizon Pennsylvania. "We have worked very hard over the past two years to reach this point, and we look forward to proving our readiness to the PUC.

"It's time for Pennsylvanians to realize the same savings that New Yorkers now enjoy," said Whelan. Consumers in New York have saved approximately $250 million in local and long-distance charges since Verizon began providing long-distance service in the Empire State one year ago, according to an independent study by the Telecommunications Research and Action Center.

Verizon's filing today with the PUC 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 regional 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.

Last month, KPMG Consulting issued the results of an exhaustive, 18-month test of Verizon's operating support systems (OSS). These systems are used by competitors when they switch local customers' service from Verizon. KPMG Consulting is a widely known, independent auditing firm hired by the PUC to conduct the test. The test, which examined 585 "test points" involving Verizon's operating systems, demonstrated that competitors are able to compete effectively using those systems.

"Our systems scored an 'A' on this rigorous test," said Whelan. "These results validate the real-world experience of more than 85 competitors who currently can and do rely on Verizon's systems to provide local phone service in Pennsylvania."

Today's PUC filing provides ample evidence that local telecommunications competition is thriving in Pennsylvania:

  • More than 670,000 Pennsylvania telephone customers are served by competitors (220,000 via competitors' leasing of Verizon's lines on a wholesale basis, and 450,000 via competitors' own lines and networks.)
  • Nearly 20 million telephone numbers have been assigned to competitors. In addition, the PUC reported that competitors had more than 1.6 million working telephone numbers as of October 1999. "That number certainly has increased in the 14 months since then," said Whelan.
  • Verizon has 164 PUC-approved agreements with competitors to link its network with theirs for local service. More than 85 companies currently use Verizon's computer systems to serve Pennsylvania customers.
  • In Pennsylvania, Verizon has more than 310,000 trunk lines linking its network with those of competitors, and Verizon has 1,700 arrangements in which competitors' communications equipment is collocated in Verizon's switching offices.
  • Competitors have access to 85 percent of Verizon's residential lines and 91 percent of business lines in Pennsylvania through these collocation arrangements.
  • In the first 10 months of 2000, voice and data calls originating on Verizon's network and terminating on competitors' networks totaled more than 15 billion minutes - a 32 percent increase over volumes for all of 1999.

During the next 100 days, the PUC will review the entire body of evidence from Verizon, its competitors and other parties. The PUC will hold intensive workshops to analyze this evidence, followed by hearings before the full commission. In addition, the PUC will examine results of three months' commercial activity involving the performance of Verizon's operating support systems in addition to the independent test conducted by KPMG Consulting.

"When the PUC completes its exhaustive examination of the record, the KPMG Consulting 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 100-day process and files its application with the FCC. The Pennsylvania PUC and the U.S. Department of Justice will provide their consultations to the FCC before it makes a decision.

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