AT&T: Bells Block Competition

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WASHINGTON -Far from quitting the long-distance business, AT&T Corp. is telling federal regulators it wants to compete in all segments of voice telephony, but bottlenecks imposed by the Baby Bells are interfering with those plans.

In a Nov. 6 letter to the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T said it cannot obtain fair prices to lease or resell the local phone loops that are critical for competitors without last-mile connections to the home. As a result, the Baby Bells remain in control of the local phone market, AT&T said.

"The monopolies have used litigation, intransigence, and regulatory gamesmanship to delay or defeat the advent of local competition," AT&T general counsel James Cicconi said in a four-page letter.

AT&T's plan to restructure into four companies, Cicconi said, was designed to strengthen its ability to compete in long distance. That's contrary to the claims of the United States Telecom Association, a Washington lobby group representing the regional Bell operating companies.

Cicconi called USTA's suggestion that AT&T would bolt from long distance "cynical innuendo and self-serving falsehoods."

Cicconi also accused SBC Communications Inc. of trying to thwart local competition in Texas by refusing to sell long distance or digital-subscriber line service to customers who were not SBC local-phone subscribers. An SBC spokesman did not have an immediate comment on the AT&T letter.

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