Ameritech wins OK for Md. service PSC approval allows long-distance service within the state

No immediate effect expected

Chicago firm is first of Baby Bells to expand here since deregulation

June 27, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

Ameritech Corp. yesterday became the first of the Baby Bell telephone companies authorized to offer statewide long-distance service in Maryland, in a move made possible by the federal telecommunications law enacted earlier this year.

The state Public Service Commission yesterday approved the application of the Chicago-based regional Bell operating company, one of seven created by the 1984 breakup of AT&T Corp., to offer Maryland long-distance service.

The consent decree governing AT&T's breakup had barred the Baby Bells from offering most long-distance services before the new federal law tore down that barrier.

In the months since, Ameritech has applied to more than 30 states for permission to offer intrastate long-distance service, said David Paholczyk, a company spokesman.

"Our objective is to provide service to our current customers," he said, principally businesses headquartered in Ameritech's home territory of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. "We have a lot of companies that are based in our area that have remote holdings in different parts of the country."

Paholczyk said Ameritech's plan is to compete for those companies' business wherever they are. While he would not name possible clients or project how much Maryland business Ameritech hopes to win, a hypothetical customer would be something like Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co.'s Noxell Corp. division in Hunt Valley.

Steve Molnar, director of telecommunications for Maryland's PSC staff, said Ameritech's entry is not likely to make a large, immediate change in the competitive climate for long-distance customers in the state.

He said Ameritech will buy long-distance services in bulk from carriers like AT&T Corp. or MCI Communications Corp. that have call handling networks in place, then resell the services at a profit.

The reseller shares the bulk discount it gets from a company like AT&T or MCI with its own customers. Molnar said about 250 companies already are in the long-distance reselling business in Maryland. "The reseller is basically a large business customer" of the bigger long-distance carrier, he said.

The commission's action affects only calls that both begin and end in Maryland, said Anthony Myers, a telecommunications engineer for the PSC. To offer interstate service, Ameritech needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission.

Bell Atlantic Corp., the Baby Bell that serves Maryland, does not yet have authority to offer statewide long-distance service, Molnar said.

Instead, Bell Atlantic can handle only local calls and toll calls within one of the four Local Access and Transport Areas (LATAs) in the state.

If a customer wants to call from Salisbury to Hagerstown, for example, Bell Atlantic can't handle the call because the towns are in different local areas. That call must be routed to a long-distance carrier.

"We haven't applied [to provide statewide long distance] because there is a regulatory barrier," Bell Atlantic spokesman Michel Daley said. "Under the Telecommunications Act, there is a 14-point checklist to show there is local service competition before we can provide in-region long distance."

Bell Atlantic has applied for permission to provide long-distance service in five states outside the mid-Atlantic region, Daley said.

Similarly, Ameritech can't provide most long-distance service in the states where it is the dominant local phone company.

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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