Bill widens eminent domain Long-distance phone carriers would benefit.

March 26, 1992|By David Conn | David Conn,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- Long-distance telephone companies in Maryland would have the power to condemn private property under a bill that moved quietly through the Senate and received an equally quiet hearing before a House committee yesterday.

The bill would allow these companies -- as long as they own their own wire in Maryland and are approved by the Public Service Commission -- to purchase private land even against the owner's wishes. C&P Telephone Co. and American Telephone & Telegraph currently have that right.

But Senate Bill 600 came about, its supporters acknowledge, because a real estate partnership that owned land in Frederick County had a dispute with a long-distance phone company named WilTel, of Tulsa, Okla.

The case was settled out of court a month ago, but the bill is proceeding through the legislature nonetheless. WilTel is joined in its support for the bill by two other long-distance carriers, MCI Communications Corp. and US Sprint. No one showed up to oppose the bill yesterday.

Public utilities -- the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., AT&T, and gas and electric companies -- have had the power to condemn private property for more than a century.

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