Pacific Bell denied long distance rights

A California commission denies Pacific Bell's request to provide long distance voice service within its region.

2 min read
The California Public Utilities Commission today denied Pacific Bell's request to provide long distance voice service and agreed to set the costs the local phone company is allowed to charge for connections to its network.

The California Public Utilities Commission rejected Pacific Bell's application on a unanimous 5-0 vote, after an administrative law judge made a similar recommendation two weeks ago.

Pacific Bell, like most of the Baby Bells, is anxious to begin providing long distance services to its local phone customers--a business that has for years been prohibited under federal regulations. As part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, local phone companies were allowed to offer long distance in their own regions, but are required first to open their own local networks to competition, under a 14-point plan.

"We can't support them yet because they only meet four of the 14 federal requirements," said CPUC spokeswoman Kyle DeVine.

Pacific Bell executives, however, are optimistic about the denial.

"The tone of the commission was positive. They like where we are right now and have given us a very clear roadmap of what we need to do to complete our application," said Pacific Bell spokesman Bill Mascek. "They didn't reject us and say 'go home,' they said, 'Pacific Bell, you're making progress.'"

The CPUC also voted 5-0 today in favor of establishing the fees competitors will pay for accessing certain parts of Pacific Bell's network, such as its copper wires, switching facilities, and customer information systems.

Some critics have said Pacific Bell's estimates for establishing service, known as non-recurring charges, are arbitrary and inflated.

"Basically, we're trying to promote competition and having a prohibitively high non-recurring charge would tend to discourage competition," said Mike Watson, an analyst for the state regulatory body.

The charges are expected to fall as electronic gateways and interfaces are developed that will allow competitors to have access to customer information.

The CPUC issued a statement following the vote that said: "Because ordering and providing of resale and separate network elements will become more efficient and costs previously charged by Pacific and GTEC are eliminated, the lowering of costs for these functions will make the market much more attractive for competitors."

The decision, which also affects GTE California, will make public the newly-established costs for the first time. The actual prices for connecting to different parts of the local phone companies' network will not be set until the first quarter of 1999, Watson said.