Bell Atlantic Corp. last week asked the Massachusetts
Department of Telecommunications and Energy to endorse a move into long-distance services,
and its competitors lined up to skewer the application.
Competitive local-exchange carriers, current long-distance
carriers and cable companies believe the incumbent telco isn't close to meeting the
14 standards by which companies are judged for openness to competition in the local
Bell Atlantic asserted that it is cooperating with 98 local
competitors, that it has resold more than 138,000 lines to those companies and that it has
unbundled more than 3,600 loops.
But several of those companies were quick to point out the
troubles they have had with a "cooperative" Bell Atlantic.
The company is making progress with its operating-support
systems, but only in New York, and not Massachusetts, said Michael J. Morrissey, AT&T
Corp.'s vice president of law and government affairs. In Massachusetts, their
"beans aren't baked yet," he quipped in a prepared statement.
Recent tests in New York showed that flaws that disrupted
service to competitors' local business customers in both New York and Boston earlier
this year still haven't been rectified, Morrissey said.
Cable-telephony providers would also like to see their
disputes with Bell Atlantic resolved before it moves into the long distance game.
MediaOne Group Inc. has two issues in arbitration right
now, according to Bartlett Leber, the MSO's vice president and corporate counsel.
Bell Atlantic has been horrible at reporting traffic on its network, she added.
"There seems to be some improvement, but there is no
assurance going forward that there will be penalties for failure to perform," she
said. MediaOne would rather not make money via penalties, but if Bell Atlantic fails to
report properly, customers get cut off.
The method and means of interconnecting is also a subject
of negotiation. MediaOne wants to meet the incumbent telco midspan, but Bell Atlantic
tries to nudge competitors toward colocation agreements.
Regarding readiness for the jump to long distance, Leber
said, "In general, Bell Atlantic is not there yet."
The DTE should consider Bell Atlantic's long-distance
request within 90 days. If the state agency approves the application, the telco must then
file with the Federal Communications Commission, which is also constrained by a 90-day
deadline to act.
Telephony providers that get reciprocal compensation from
Bell Atlantic for completing calls to Internet-service providers are likely to joint the
Most states have considered those calls local, but in
February, the FCC said they are long-distance. The commission left it up to state
agencies, however, to ultimately decide the status of the calls.
Branding those calls long-distance will cost
non-facilities-based competitors about one cent per minute on calls they complete, and it
will raise the cost of Internet access to end-users.
For its part, Bell Atlantic authorities said Internet
companies are strong enough to stand alone, without subsidies.