Something is happening deep in the heart of Texas.
Southwestern Bell announced March 2 that it will ask state and federal regulators for consent to compete fully in the Texas long-distance market.
As required by federal law and regulations, approval to provide in-region interLATA long-distance service will be sought from the Federal Communications Commission following consideration by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, according to a Southwestern Bell news release.
"Texans deserve full competition. That's why we are challenging our competitors to 'Meet us in the marketplace. Now.' Competition will benefit all Texas consumers," said David Cole, president of Southwestern Bell in Texas, in the news release.
State and federal rules require the company to meet a checklist demonstrating its local phone markets are open to competition before it can become a complete long-distance company.
"Southwestern Bell manifestly has satisfied its checklist responsibilities," Cole stated. "This statutory requirement, together with actual, growing local competition, leaves no doubt that the local exchange market in Texas is open to any carrier that wants to compete."
Action by the Texas PUC over the past several months "has made competition and the opportunity for companies to enter into competition, wide open in Texas," Cole said in the release.
To date, 155 companies have gained PUC approval to provide local telephone service in Texas. In addition, Southwestern Bell has successfully negotiated interconnection agreements with 107 companies, the company stated.
Cole said Southwestern Bell has lost more than a quarter million access lines to reseller and facilities-based com-
petitors in Texas. "Competitors have demonstrated their ability to capture more than 40,000 former Southwestern Bell customers in Texas in a single month," he stated.
The developments cited by Cole as evidence that Southwestern Bell has met the requirements of entering the long-distance market include the following:
?Since passage of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, Southwestern Bell's operations systems have received and processed orders from more than 85 different carriers in Texas, the release stated. The systems Southwestern Bell uses to serve competitors in Texas have processed a total of 880,000 orders for competitors, including 766,000 orders specifically for Texas, all without backlog.
?During the month of January 1998, Southwestern Bell exchanged 84 million minutes of local traffic with competing networks in Texas. The company exchanged more than 6.3 billion minutes of local and Internet traffic with competitors in 1997, the release said.
"This application demonstrates that Southwestern Bell has met, and exceeded, its duties under the 1996 act. The local-exchange market in Texas is fully open to any company, and numerous carriers are in fact competing," Cole stated.
'Texans deserve full competition ... competition will benefit all Texas customers.'
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