Pa. Ops Oppose Bell Merger


Harrisburg, Pa. -- Pennsylvania cable operators are among
telephony competitors piling into a coalition to prevent state approval of the merger of
Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. and statewide deregulation of Bell Atlantic.

Bell Atlantic has tried to convince state regulators that
it has complied with Chapter 30 in the Pennsylvania government code, which would allow the
utility to diminish regulatory oversight if it builds a statewide high-speed network and
allows competitors to have access to that network.

The telco tried to reach a global settlement with potential
competitors and regulators, but "that went nowhere," Pennsylvania Cable and
Telecommunications Association president Bill Cologie said.

The cable trade group opposes the Bell Atlantic-GTE merger
"because it's not particularly good for the community. It's just
anti-competitive to aggregate power like this," Cologie said.

Pennsylvania legislators are considering three possible
bills, including one opposing the merger outright. That bill, coalition members believe,
shows legislators' frustration over attempts to wrest information from the telephone

Another bill, Senate Bill 669, would require a thorough
review of Bell Atlantic's Chapter 30-qualifying activities, especially construction
information on the statewide network. That bill has been voted out of the state
Senate's consumer-protection committee.

The coalition of competitors supports all three bills.