The phase-out of these requirements began last year after a court ordered the Federal Communications Commission to discontinue these set leasing rates, which were established as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. AT&T, MCI and other long-distance phone operators used the act to enter the local-phone business, luring millions of home phone customers away from the Bells.
But the rules were struck down last year after a long battle initiated by the Bells. The U.S. Court of Appeals order forced the FCC to draft new rules about competitive access to the Bells' network. Those new rules were.
Consumers and businesses shouldn't experience dramatic price hikes right away because the FCC capped how much extra the Bells can charge over the next 12 months. For residential lines, the Bells can charge at most $1 a month on top of what operators were previously paying. Businesses telephone operators will see up to a 15 percent increase, according to the FCC.
A year from now, the Bells will be able to charge whatever they want, the FCC added.