PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Rhode Island consumers are a major step closer to enjoying full telecommunications competition, as Verizon today notified the Rhode Island Public Utilities 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 Rhode Island.
The PUC asked that Verizon notify the commission 90 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 Rhode Islanders to reap the benefits of full telecommunications competition,'' said Donna Cupelo, president of Verizon Rhode Island. ''We have worked long and hard to reach this point, and we look forward to proving our readiness to the PUC.
''It's time for Rhode Islanders to realize the same savings that New Yorkers and Bay Staters now enjoy,'' said Cupelo.
Consumers in New York are saving up to $700 million annually in local and long-distance charges since Verizon began providing long-distance service in the Empire State in January 2000, according to an independent study by the Telecommunications Research and Action Center.
Massachusetts residents began taking advantage of Verizon's gimmick-free, long- distance plans in April when the company received FCC approval to offer the service in the Bay State. On July 20, the FCC approved Verizon's application to offer long-distance service in Connecticut.
Verizon's filing today with the Rhode Island PUC shows in extensive detail 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 Rhode Island.
KPMG Consulting, a widely known, independent auditing firm hired by the PUC, issued a report July 24 verifying that Verizon's operations support systems (OSS) are the same as those already reviewed by the FCC when it approved Verizon's application in Massachusetts. Competitors use Verizon's systems when they switch local customers' service from Verizon.
Today's PUC filing provides ample evidence that local telecommunications competition is thriving in Rhode Island:
- More than 100,000 Rhode Island telephone customers are served by competitors (32,000 via competitors' leasing of Verizon's lines on a wholesale basis, and 69,000 via competitors' own lines and networks).
- More than 2.5 million telephone numbers have been assigned to competitors.
- Verizon has 52 agreements with competitors to link its network with theirs, allowing them to offer local service. More than 50 companies currently use Verizon's computer systems to serve Rhode Island customers.
- In Rhode Island, Verizon has more than 47,000 trunk lines linking its network with those of competitors, and Verizon has provided 221 arrangements in which competitors' communications equipment is collocated in Verizon's switching offices.
- Competitors have access to 97 percent of Verizon's residential lines and 99 percent of business lines in Rhode Island through these collocation arrangements.
- In the first five months of 2001, voice and data calls originating on Verizon's network and terminating on competitors' networks totaled more than 1.3 billion minutes.
During the next 90 days, the PUC will review all the evidence from Verizon, its competitors and other parties to verify that the local market is irreversibly open to competition.
''When the PUC completes its exhaustive examination of the record, we're confident it will support our long-distance application to the FCC,'' said Cupelo.
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. Before making a decision, the FCC consults with the Rhode Island PUC and the U.S. Department of Justice.
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 112 million access line equivalents and 27 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with approximately 260,000 employees and more than $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com