NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Phone Competition At Last?

October 1, 1999

The promised consumer benefits from the 1996 deregulation of the telephone industry -- one-stop shopping for telephone, cable and Internet services -- may be creeping closer. Bell Atlantic filed a motion with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week to provide long distance as well as local phone service for its New York state customers.

  • If approved, Bell Atlantic would be the first local Bell monopoly to provide complete long-distance service.
  • Competition would be fostered, since AT&T, MCI and Sprint would have to offer better rates, new services and local service.
  • Up until now, however, the local Bells have fought competition, going to court to overturn FCC rules that would require them to compete -- and that they promised to abide by when Congress deregulated phone and cable service in 1996.
  • Truly seamless communications service won't be available to 90 percent of the nation until the Bells stop using their monopoly power to block competition and concentrate instead on winning customers with service and prices.

Most observers note, however, that Bell Atlantic has done the most to compete fairly, as New York now has more than a million local phone customers served by other companies. Still there have been slowdowns and disruptions when switching to other systems.

The FCC has 90 days to approve Bell Atlantic's request.

Source: Editorial, "At Last, Some Competition," USA Today, October 1, 1999.

 

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