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FCC escalates crackdown on telecom violations

Marking its first anniversary, the commission's Enforcement Bureau levies fines and solicits settlements from a number of companies, including $750,000 from BellSouth.

WASHINGTON--The Federal Communications Commission cracked down on BellSouth Thursday, fining the Baby Bell $750,000 for failing to provide competitor Covad Communications with the appropriate billing data.

The FCC continues to crack down on telecommunications companies that violate federal mandates to open networks to third parties. BellSouth refused to provide the data to Covad for six months, the FCC said.

Many of the digital subscriber line (DSL) providers, such as Covad, NorthPoint Communications and Rhythms NetConnections, have long complained about their ability to quickly lease lines from the Baby Bell local phone companies. DSL executives contend the Bells move too slowly to provision lines for them, and several lawsuits have been filed seeking rulings or compensation for what the DSL providers, and others, believe are far from good-faith efforts by the Baby Bells.

As part of the resolution with the FCC, the Bell also agreed to adopt procedures for quickly releasing information to competitors and a better appeals process within the company when a competitor feels it's not being treated fairly.

BellSouth said in a statement that it did not admit wrongdoing in settling with the FCC.

"While we believe our method of assuring that confidential pricing information remain confidential was reasonable under the law, the new language we have adopted serves our need for confidentiality and clarifies for everyone concerned what procedures BellSouth will follow going forward," Margaret Greene, executive vice president for regulatory and external affairs, said in the statement.

The BellSouth fine was merely the largest of several enforcement actions this week. Three long-distance providers volunteered to pay fines for limiting access to other providers via operator services. AT&T will pay $150,000, WorldCom $105,000 and U.S. Long Distance $56,000. In addition, long-distance provider Global Crossing agreed to pay $80,000 for not providing pay-phone customers with its long-distance rates.

News.com's Corey Grice and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.