Bell Atlantic reaches deal to link long-distance computer calls Small firm's involvement helps avoid breaking law

November 13, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

Bell Atlantic Corp. announced a deal that will let it connect corporate customers' far-flung computer networks without violating laws that bar it from handling most long-distance phone calls, by enlisting a small Anne Arundel County company to handle the work Bell Atlantic legally cannot.

Federal law bars Bell Atlantic and other local phone companies from handling long-distance calls in areas where they have a monopoly on local phone service, and the rules apply to calls carrying data as well as voices.

So yesterday's deal calls for Annapolis Junction-based American Communications Services Inc. to handle long-distance data calls for computer network customers, while Bell Atlantic processes local traffic from the same clients.

This is the third such deal in recent months involving a local company; in October, Beltsville-based Internet service provider Digex Inc. signed a deal with SBC Communications Inc. to carry long-distance Internet traffic for SBC's Southwestern Bell unit, and ACSI has a similar deal with BellSouth Corp. "It's beneficial for both companies," ACSI President Richard A. Kozak said of yesterday's agreement. "On one hand, we're competitors, and on the other hand we're customers of each other. That's sort of the spirit of the Telecommunications Act."

Bell Atlantic spokesman Paul Miller said the ACSI deal is expected to stay in place even after Bell Atlantic is allowed to enter the long-distance market. Under the new federal telecommunications law, Bell Atlantic can offer long distance in the states where it has traditionally monopolized local service as soon as it proves it has opened the local service market to true competition.

But Miller declined to say how much traffic the two companies will share under the deal.

"The more competitive we get the less inclined we are to talk about how much we are making on specific services, or how much we expect to make," Miller said.

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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