Bell Atlantic, MCI Agree To Connect Networks In New Jersey, Pennsylvania

ARLINGTON, VA — Bell Atlantic announced today that it has signed comprehensive local interconnection and resale agreements in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with MCI's local service affiliate, MCImetro Access Transmission Services, Inc. Approvals from the appropriate state regulatory bodies are expected to come within a month.

"We're delighted we have an agreement with MCI in Pennsylvania. We only wish it could have come sooner," said Dan Whelan, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania. "They dragged their heels on this for a year before we finally got them to this point."

Bell Atlantic has entered into 61 comprehensive interconnection agreements since passage of the Telecommunications Act last year.

The New Jersey agreement expands interconnection services that have been available to MCI since last Jan. 15, when Bell Atlantic voluntarily entered into an interim interconnection agreement. The Pennsylvania agreement expands upon services that have been available under an interim agreement with MCI since late 1995 and under tariff since late 1996.

These agreements also broaden the earlier interim agreements, by providing resale provisions that will permit MCI to resell Bell Atlantic local service, branded as MCI service, and by adding detail to existing interconnection, testing, and support systems.

In addition to resale, Bell Atlantic has agreed in both states to offer MCI numerous services, including:

  • access to Bell Atlantic databases and ordering systems;
  • interconnection at various points in the Bell Atlantic network;
  • collocation of MCI equipment in Bell Atlantic central offices;
  • interconnection to other companies with whom MCI is not directly connected;
  • number portability, and
  • the ability to purchase and combine what are commonly called "unbundled network elements." which include virtually any piece of Bell Atlantic's network.

The arrangements permit MCI to offer local service to customers through several means, including reselling Bell Atlantic's local service, repackaging Bell Atlantic's network elements, or interconnecting MCI's facilities to Bell Atlantic's facilities, to the extent that MCI chooses to build its own facilities.

Prices for all of the interconnection services and unbundled network elements that Bell Atlantic will provide MCI are based on the actual costs of providing those services. These rates are expected to be approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission today and by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities shortly. MCI may purchase Bell Atlantic's telecommunications services for resale at a discount off of the retail prices Bell Atlantic customers now pay. This discounted rate is also established by the state regulators.

While MCI will not reciprocate with similar types of services to Bell Atlantic, it will allow the completion of calls from Bell Atlantic's customers to MCI customers, and it will offer number portability (customers can take their phone number with them if they leave MCI to return to Bell Atlantic).

"This multi-billion-dollar long distance giant, soon to be backed by the enormous resources of British Telecom, can now tap into any element or service it might want to get into the local phone business," said Len Lauer, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic-New Jersey. "These agreements, combined with the earlier agreements with other carriers, clearly demonstrate Bell Atlantic's commitment to meet the requirements of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. We look forward to the day when Bell Atlantic can compete with MCI on all fronts, including MCI's long distance empire."

Bell Atlantic cannot offer long distance in its service area until the FCC determines that it meets the requirements of the Telecommunications Act. MCI and the other long distance giants have opposed local telephone company entry into that market, which is dominated by the Big Three oligopoly of AT&T, MCI and Sprint.

Competitive carriers are currently offering local exchange phone service to customers in several areas in the Bell Atlantic region. Bell Atlantic has 10 comprehensive interconnection agreements in New Jersey and 11 in Pennsylvania.

Bell Atlantic Corp. (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new communications, entertainment and information industry. In the mid-Atlantic region, the company's telephone company subsidiaries are the premier providers of local telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing high-growth national and international business opportunities in all phases of the industry.