P.O. Box 19312, Washington, DC 20036
James Love, Director
Consumer Project on Technology
P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036
202.387.8030, fax 202.234.5176
March 31, 1998
John F. O'Mara
New York State
Public Service Commission
Department of Public Service
3 Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12223-1350
Re: Case 97-C-0271, Bell Atlantic Entry into Long Distance Markets
Dear Chairman O'Mara
We are writing to express our concern that the New York Public Service Commission (PSC)
is not providing adequate public review of proposals that would permit Bell Atlantic to enter long distance telephone markets. It is our understanding that the PSC Staff issued a critical report on this topic on March 17, 1998, and provided stakeholders, including consumers, only six days (including a weekend) to submit comments, which were limited to 10 pages, and that requests for public hearings were denied.
The key issue for consumers is the terms under which Bell Atlantic, a monopoly provider of local service, will be permitted to further vertically integrate. Lawmakers and incumbent local exchange telephone companies claimed that the 1996 Telecommunications Act would usher in a new era of competition, but consumers have seen few of the promised benefits. The primary leverage to obtain actual competition for local service comes from the conditions regulators attach to Bell Atlantic's entry into the long distance market. If the NY PSC strikes a poor bargain, a historic opportunity to open telecommunications markets will have been lost, and consumers will suffer even more, as Bell Atlantic will likely leverage its local service monopoly into vertical markets.
A number of parties in the New York proceeding have identified compelling concerns over major features of the current proposal by the PSC staff to permit Bell Atlantic to enter long distance markets. These concerns deserve a full and detailed airing, prior to PSC approval of a recommendation to the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Federal Communications Commission. (FCC).
We are particularly concerned that the process outlined by the PSC does not provide for (1) specific tests of the success of the present proposal, so that the PSC can consider alternative approaches should local service competition fail to materialize for residential consumers, (2) adequate mechanism to ensure compliance with Bell Atlantic promises regarding levels of services to its competitors, and (3) sufficient commitments to ensure that residential consumers will benefit from competition in markets for Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technologies and other higher bandwidth services, which are essential for faster residential connections to the Internet. We are also extremely concerned about the proposal for the rapid sun-setting of Bell Atlantic's obligations to provide access to its unbundled network elements (UNE), regardless of the state of actual competition.
No action should be taken until the PSC holds public hearings on the March 17, 1998 staff proposal, which contains new and highly controversial proposals that would severely limit competitor's access to Bell Atlantic's unbundled network elements (UNE). We will be contacting your office to determine which specific steps the PSC is taking to provide a more meaningful public debate on this important topic.