AT&T May Seek Federal Help to Stop Rival's Long-Distance Service

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AT&T Corp., Basking Ridge, NJ, said yesterday that it will ask regulators to suspend Bell Atlantic Corp.'s authority to provide long-distance service in New York state due to Bell Atlantic's inability to fix broken systems that serve competitors.

In December, Bell Atlantic became the first Baby Bell to win approval to provide long-distance service in its home market.

AT&T is arguing that Bell Atlantic has not met requirements to offer such services. Under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Bell Atlantic must open its local telephone markets to competition and meet 14 different standards before winning permission to sell long-distance service.

AT&T said Bell Atlantic has lost tens of thousands of orders from customers who chose AT&T or other carriers offering local phone service in New York.

Bell Atlantic, New York, yesterday admitted to having some software problems when processing orders, but said those glitches had been resolved.

"Competition is alive and well in New York," said Tom Tauke, senior vice president of government relations at Bell Atlantic. "Local competitors have captured more than 1.5 million local telephone lines throughout the state. Our operating support systems are now successfully handling more than 10,000 orders a day from our wholesale customers."

AT&T will ask Bell Atlantic to voluntarily stop marketing its long-distance service while it fixes its system. If the request is denied, AT&T said it will file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

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