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California won't force Pac Bell to share

The state Public Utilities Commission votes to adopt a disputed agreement between Pacific Bell and a competitor and won't force the company to share copper lines it uses for voice service.

The California Public Utilities Commission, by voting today to adopt a disputed agreement between Pacific Bell and a competitor, has decided not to force the local phone company to share the same copper lines it uses for voice service with others.

The state regulatory body, on a 3-0 vote, approved an interconnection agreement between Pacific Bell and PDO Communications, a San Jose, California-based competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC)--effectively a win for the phone company.

However, the commission decided to examine the controversial policy issue at a separate proceeding later this year. At least one regulator said he sided with Pacific Bell today with "deep regret."

PDO wants to use a portion of the same wires Pacific Bell uses to offer local voice calls to provide high-speed Internet access through a technology known as DSL, or digital subscriber lines. But when Pacific Bell balked, a state arbitrator drafted a revised agreement that does not require the company to share its lines, a procedure known as "sub-loop unbundling" or "line sharing." That revised agreement was approved today.

"They affirmed the arbitrator's decision," said Tim Sullivan, an advisor to commissioner Henry Duque. "We don't force sharing at this time."

Although today's decision leaves untouched the state's existing policy of giving those who use or lease the copper wires exclusive access to that line, the commissioners appear interested in adopting a line sharing policy.

"This seems like a great idea," Duque said in a statement. "It would be good to give it a try."

Such a policy could set a national precedent. Lawyers for PDO Communications have already vowed to appeal today's decision and, if necessary, take the matter to federal district court.