The consumer revolution that struck long-distance telephone service in the wake of the breakup of the old Bell system has now reached local users as well. By giving small telephone companies -- as unfamiliar to consumers as MCI or Sprint were 10 years ago -- access to regional Bell central offices, the Federal Communications Commission has opened a range of choices for local customers.
The order gives small packagers of telephone services the right to plug directly into the central computers that control local access. This means they will be able to compete with the local Bell companies -- such as our Chesapeake & Potomac -- on a much more even footing. The result should be increased competition and lower charges.
Regulation is catching up with technology. New developments in electronic equipment and increased capacity of fiber optic transmission lines open possibilities for telecommunications in businesses and homes. The Bell companies are trying to exploit these openings by extending new services through telephone lines. As a result of the FCC action, other companies can also get into the game. And the game is considerably more lucrative than the already competitive long distance business has become. Local service adds up to some $90 billion a year, compared with $55 billion for long distance.