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Texas Judge Rips Telecom Act Finds Prejudice Against Baby Bells

Fortnightly Magazine - March 1 1998

has truly opened its network to competitors.

Commissioner Susan Ness of the Federal Communications Commission has predicted the court's order will first be stayed and then overturned on appeal. Her colleague, Commissioner Michael K. Powell, labeled the court ruling a "stern wake-up call for us all" and suggested improving the process for reviewing applications by the BOCs for entry into the long-distance market. He proposed establishing a collaborative process designed to "find common ground on which the application can be approved." Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, says he plans to "revisit" the act during hearings expected sometime this session. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plans to introduce legislation that will improve competition in local and long-distance markets. F

Phillip S. Cross is contributing legal editor to Public Utilities Fortnightly.

State Certifications: PUCs Interpret Section 271

THE TWO-TRACK SYSTEM. Telecommunications Act 271 sets up

two alterative tracks (em Track A and Track B (em for state regulators to certify that local telephone markets are sufficiently competitive to allow the former Baby Bells to offer long-distance calling within their former monopoly franchise areas. Track A applies when a facilities-based competitor offers both business and residential service. Track B allows entry even without a facilities-based competitor, as long as the Bell carrier has offered adequate access and interconnection, as determined under a 14-point checklist. (For details on the checklist, see internet site for the Communications Media Center at New York Law School, www.cmcryls.edu/public/USLaws/1996ChkL.HTM.)

FLORIDA: A BLACK HOLE? BellSouth found itself shut out of both Track A and Track B. Track A could not apply because the facilities-based local carriers already competing did not serve residential callers. But many carriers had requested interconnection, disqualifying BellSouth from using Track B, available only when no competitors are present, said the PSC. BellSouth complained to no avail that Congress could not have intended to leave a "Black Hole" between the two methods, allowing competitors to control the process. Docket No. 960786, Order No. PSC-97-1459- FOF-TL, Nov. 19, 1997 (Fla.P.S.C.).

ILLINOIS: CARROT & STICK. Ameritech failed a checklist requirement for access to its operational support system (ordering, maintenance and repair and billing functions). However, state regulators agreed that Ameritech could meet checklist items simply by proving a service was available. It need not show that a service was actually provided (em a rule that would have put the process in the hands of competitors. The commission said its carrot-and-stick approach was working extremely well in Illinois, judging by the "fast pace" with which Ameritech had completed various checklist items. No. 96-0404, Aug. 4, 1997, 180 PUR4th 1 (Ill.C.C.).

NORTH CAROLINA: PAPER PROMISES. BellSouth failed the checklist item for interconnection in North Carolina, even though it had installed 28,280 interconnection trunks between its switches and those of competing carriers. The utilities commission said BellSouth was not currently providing "physical collocation and interconnection to local tandems," but had offered only "paper promises" to fulfill 11 outstanding requests for the service. Overall, the commission said that BellSouth should have performance measurements adequate to demonstrate that electronic interfaces