Bell to get local competition

April 26, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland's Public Service Commission has ended Bell Atlantic Corp.'s monopoly in the local telephone market.

In a ruling released late yesterday, the commission gave the green light for MFS Intellinet of Maryland to offer local exchange services to business customers in competition with the former C&P Telephone Co. of Maryland.

The ruling doesn't directly affect local residential services, but the MFS decision sent a strong signal that the PSC would be sympathetic to any carrier that wanted to compete with Bell Atlantic Maryland for that business.

The PSC ruling, which essentially says that competition needn't wait while all the details regarding MFS' entry are ironed out, puts Maryland near the top of the states in openness to telephone competition.

Frank Fulton, a spokesman for the PSC, said the decision gave MFS most of what it requested from the commission while rejecting most of the preconditions that Bell Atlantic had sought. The PSC decision gives MFS Intellinet (MFS-I), a subsidiary of MFS Communications Co. of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., co-carrier status in the business market -- essentially elevating it to the same level as Bell Atlantic in most respects.

Royce Holland, president of MFS, hailed the PSC's action as "truly a landmark ruling for the state of Maryland." He said the state is the second in the country, after New York, to certify MFS as a co-carrier.

Frederick D. D'Alessio, president of Bell Atlantic Maryland, said in a statement that his company has not been opposed to competition and was not surprised at the PSC's action.

For several years, MFS Communications has been active in Maryland as a "competitive access provider," offering large businesses cut-rate fiber-optic connections to long distance carriers.

With yesterday's decision, MFS will be able to offer service to even the smallest businesses, Mr. Holland said. He said the carrier expects to begin offering local service in the third quarter of this year, backed by an aggressive marketing push.

Mr. Holland said he could not predict exactly how his company's prices would compare with Bell Atlantic's. However, he said, the company would likely take an approach similar to the one it took in New York, where MFS has been marketing itself as a "one-stop-shopping" provider of long distance, local and telephone system maintenance service. There, his company has been able to save customers from 15 percent to 20 percent on their total telecommunications bill, he said.

As a result of the decision, MFS will also accelerate its program of laying fiber-optic cable to areas of the state it does not already reach. The company's network now takes in parts of downtown Baltimore and Hunt Valley, Fort Meade and some Washington suburbs.

Bell Atlantic will be required to provide nondiscriminatory access to its local network, and MFS will be permitted to complete calls between its own customers without going through a Bell Atlantic switch.

Mr. Fulton said the PSC ruled that MFS would have to pay Bell Atlantic 6.1 cents for each local call completed on the regional giant's network.

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