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BellSouth squelches shutoff concerns

The company denies speculation that it might shut off service to some of its phone company customers in June, when the Bells will no longer have to lease their local networks.

BellSouth has denied rumors that it might shut off service to some of its 300 telephone company customers in June.

Starting June 16, BellSouth and other local phone companies no longer have to lease parts of their network to competitors. But "BellSouth will not unilaterally breach its interconnection agreements," the carrier said in a letter to telephone companies that could be affected.

A BellSouth representative on Wednesday pointed out that the carrier has already signed agreements with seven telephone companies that rely on its network. It also has begun negotiations with more than 70 other phone companies.

According to a source familiar with the letter, it was sent in response to "rumors" circulating last week that BellSouth is planning to pull the plug on services, barring any last-minute U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down existing rules that provided competitive carriers access to the Baby Bells' network at regulated rates. The Bells had successfully argued the rules forced them to lease their lines at rates far below what they considered fair.

The source identified the rumors as coming from CompSouth, an industry group listing AT&T, MCI and others as members. A CompSouth representative could not be reached for comment.