Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 01, 2004

Competition will keep phone costs in check

While The Sun's editorial "One step back, two forward?" (June 24) acknowledges the many alternatives consumers have in the telecommunications market, it incorrectly assumes that changes in wholesale rates some companies pay Verizon will increase consumers' phone rates.

Intense competition from land-line, wireless, cable and Internet-based providers - not from wholesale rates - will keep consumers' phone rates in check.

Consider that under the Federal Communications Commission's old rules, some competitors pay Verizon less than $14 a month to lease its Maryland network at below-cost wholesale prices, then charge customers around $50 a month for local and long-distance service.

Raising wholesale prices may reduce competitors' profit margins, but they'll think twice about raising retail phone rates, because consumers will have alternatives.

The federal government was right in not trying to revive the old rules. This decision will benefit consumers and small businesses by encouraging network-builders such as Verizon to continue to invest in new technologies.

New rules are needed so all companies can compete fairly in the market without government-mandated subsidies.

William R. Roberts

Baltimore

The writer is president of Verizon Maryland.

New rules will mean higher phone bills

The Sun's editorial "One step back, two forward?" (June 24) was a beacon of clarity in a telecom storm often clouded by political rhetoric and hyperbole. While Internet telephony is the wave of the future, the industry is not there yet - and in the meantime, consumers are going to see their phone bills rise because of President Bush's refusal to protect local phone competition.

Telecom competition was beginning to take hold, in Maryland and nationwide, with consumers saving more than $10 billion a year thanks to bundled local and long-distance services. Many new market entrants were able to offer such cost-effective packages as a result of the federal rules that allowed them to lease the local phone lines at wholesale rates from the Bells - which is how other Bell companies offer long-distance service over lines they don't own.

But under heavy pressure from Verizon and other Bell monopolies, the White House reversed its pro-competition stance and allowed a federal court decision to stand that undercut the leasing rules.

That is why companies such as AT&T and Z-Tel are now exiting the local phone business. Other alternative providers are likely to follow.

It's simple economics - the Bells control virtually all of the local phone lines and will be able to charge competitors exorbitant prices to lease the lines. As a result, competitors will no longer be able to provide affordable local phone service to customers and, rather than lose money, the companies will be forced to leave the market.

Without competition, the Bells will be free to raise prices as consumers will have no ability to get their local service elsewhere. Until other choices such as Internet telephony become a widespread reality, consumers will see phone prices rise and choices dwindle.

And when they ask who is responsible for picking the winners and losers, the answer can only be the Bush administration, which chose the Bells over consumers.

H. Russell Frisby Jr.

Washington

The writer is CEO of CompTel/ASCENT, a trade group representing Bell competitors, and is a former chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Parking Authority doesn't serve city

I think its perfectly valid for members of the city's Parking Authority to live outside the city limits ("Wasted trip to Towson," June 28). Who do you think the Parking Authority represents?

Certainly not city residents, like myself, who don't own a car and wouldn't think of going downtown in a vehicle when a $64-a-month transit pass gets me just about everywhere I want to go.

Certainly not me. I pay taxes on four properties in Baltimore City - and my tax money is going to subsidize parking lots so county residents such as Parking Authority Executive Director Jeff Sparrow can park downtown.

Paul R. Schlitz Jr.

Baltimore

This graduation was a real triumph

In response to the editorial describing the graduation of young Baltimoreans from the city's juvenile drug court program ("Another graduation," June 26), I would like to thank The Sun for bringing to light such uplifting, courageous acts of resolution.

Turning one's life around and rejecting the negative world views of one's peers in the face of poverty, a lack of family and community support and the maldistribution of economic resources are a testament to the character and fortitude of these young men and women.

I would also like to extend a hearty thanks to those counselors, social workers, parole officers and others who guided them and otherwise lent their support along the way.

In view of the billions of dollars our country spends on military programs of dubious value, spending up to $5,000 per graduate and per life on this program is dirt cheap.

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