My electric company, Potomac Electric Power Co., has announced a joint venture with RCN Corp. of Princeton, N.J., to offer local and long-distance telephone service to callers in Washington, D.C., and nearby areas, plus cable television and high-speed connections to the Internet. With stockholder money, PEPCO would compete head-on against Bell Atlantic, which won approval from the Federal Communications Commission on Aug. 14 for its $25-billion merger with NYNEX.
Reporting the story, The Washington Post quoted PEPCO President John M. Derrick as saying the company was "evolving into an integrated supplier of energy and telecommunications services."
Also "evolving" are utility stockholders. Some see electrics as vulnerable to power marketers, armed with a card table and cell phone.
Will Bell Atlantic prove so easy a target? Sprint says it will back off from efforts to take on the local Bell carriers; it's having difficult cracking the franchise. Some say the Bells are blocking access to the local loop. Others see AT&T, MCI, et al. as fearing Bell entry into long distance. (If long-distance carriers can show foot-dragging by local monopolies, perhaps they can win sympathy for delaying competition in long lines.)
Into this fight jumps PEPCO, like a field-goal kicker coming off the bench to break up a fight between a tackle and a linebacker.