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SBC to miss upgrade deadline

The company will not make a March 22 deadline to upgrade a computer system used by hundreds of smaller phone companies. One provider says it shows SBC's "lack of respect."

SBC Communications won't make a March 22 deadline to upgrade a computer system used by hundreds of smaller telephone companies to order airtime or make maintenance requests, an SBC spokesman said Thursday.

John Britton, a spokesman for SBC Pacific Bell, a California-based SBC Communications affiliate, said the necessary software is still being tested and evaluated. Britton said the delay would be "short," but he would not elaborate.

The computer network is used by hundreds of companies that buy telephone and Internet service from SBC, then resell it in 13 states. The upgrade creates a common set of forms the resellers use when making payments or asking for new services.

SBC agreed with the Federal Communications Commission to upgrade the computer networks after it merged with Ameritech in 1999, according to an SBC spokesman.

The delay angered the California Internet Service Provider Association (CISPA), a trade group that has complained about the SBC computer system for years.

For example, PacWest Telecom, a small telephone service in Stockton, Calif., is now disputing $6 million in SBC charges, said Ethan Sprague, PacWest's regulatory manager.

"It all points to a lack of respect that (they) have for the people they do business with; they know they have billing problems," said Jim Pickrel, president of both CISPA and Internet provider Brand X Internet.

Britton called CISPA's assertions "lies."