Enterprises, Bell Rivals Team Up for Lower Rates

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2003-05-01
Large corporate telecom users teamed up with the providers that serve them to urge the government to address what they call excessive rates charged by Regional Bell Operating Companies for allowing businesses to connect directly to their networks, known as "special access services."

While the Bells fight for continued deregulation, user groups and competitors are struggling to prevent rising prices and dwindling choices. In theory, deregulation hinges on whether a market is competitive, but the Bells and their adversaries paint dramatically different pictures of the level of competition in the local telephone market.

Enterprises in many industries use special access services, which is why trade groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, have joined the Bells rivals to fight for lower rates. Calling itself the Special Access Reform Coalition, the group of enterprises and service providers asked the Federal Communications Commission to reinstate price ceilings on special access services.

According to SPARC, in an FCC proceeding four years ago, the Bells promised to lower special access rates if the FCC removed the ceilings on access prices. The coalition, which includes the major long distance carriers—perennial adversaries to the Bells—charges that the Bells special access rates have increased even though the cost of providing the services has declined.

Calling the FCCs decision to begin deregulating the Bells before "price-constraining competition" had taken root, SPARC said the regulatory stance "has been a failure of astounding proportions." Requests for the FCC to take a fresh look at the problem have been pending since last year.

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