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MCI WorldCom Says Open Access Will Rule Wireless World

MCI WorldCom Inc. Wednesday fueled the federal regulatory fire for approving its pending merger with Sprint Corp. by committing to deliver a competitive wireless broadband network.

Bernard J. Ebbers, MCI WorldCom (WCOM) president and chief executive officer, said a merged MCI WorldCom-Sprint (FON) company would unleash their wireless competitive force on the broadband marketplace.

Ebbers said the merged company would demonstrate its commitment to open access of its broadband services by designing a high-speed wireless network that would be capable of supporting independent Internet service providers.

"We will offer the benefit of real competition," Ebbers said. "The choice will not be between one monopoly and another. We will give it to them a third way, an open way and competitive way."

Although open access to cable networks has been a hot regulatory issue for the Internet industry, competitive access to wireless systems has never been considered a possible solution to breaking through the broadband access deadlock.

According to Ebbers, the new WorldCom would also accelerate its deployment of broadband wireless access to rural and under-served areas within a year of the merger close date.

The Federal Communications Commission has made it a priority for the industry to find a way to span the "digital divide" and develop broadband access to under served communities. By committing the merged company to developing such a network, MCI-WorldCom is offering the federal regulators the means to exit from the open access debate by approving of the pending deal.

The FCC initially deemed the MCI WorldCom-Sprint merger as a blow to competition in the marketplace. Both companies' own substantial Internet backbones and the regulators' fear combining the nations second- and third-largest long-distance providers would limit long-distance competition.

Ebbers acknowledged concerns raised by critics, but stressed that such perceptions are out of step with converging technologies.

"Those arguments rest on a perception that's way out of date,'' Ebbers said. "When compared with other major carriers in the all-distance market, MCI WorldCom and Sprint rank as numbers four and seven," Ebbers added.



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