Ky. PSC: BellSouth Provided Discriminatory Access
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BellSouth Telecommunications Inc. has been found guilty of violating Kentucky law with its method of DSL deployment.
The ruling is the result of action taken last year on behalf of a regional ISP based in Louisville, Kentucky. In November 1999, an Internet service provider named IgLou filed a formal complaint with Kentucky Public Service Commission charging BellSouth with various marketing abuses and practices that stifled competition.
"BellSouth has used its position to the benefit of its own Internet operations over all other ISPs," said Dannie Gregorie, co-founder of IgLou. "This, coupled with a tariff that works to lock out other providers, has provided BellSouth with an unfair and illegal advantage in deploying DSL and other Internet services."
The Kentucky Public Service Commission deemed that BellSouth had provided preferential and discriminatory access to its own Internet operations to the detriment of other ISPs. According to the ruling, "The issues raised by the complaint transcend the private dispute between the parties to this case. They are major ones for this Commonwealth, implicating concerns involving the growth of competition in our telecommunications market as well as ease of access to information technology that is crucial in determining Kentucky's future."
Part of Iglou's allegations was that BellSouth was offering a volume discount that was too high for smaller ISPs to offer, noted Michael Seebert, regional director of BellSouth, Louisville, Kentucky. "There were no findings that accounting safeguards were being violated. This is a regionwide service in which pricing, tariffs and rates are approved by the FCC," he said.
"We are constantly looking at pricing structures," he added. "BellSouth has a history of treating customers fairly and we plan to continue to do that."
BellSouth has been given 30 days to alter its business practices. Seebert noted that the ruling is presently under review.
Iglou's victory is significant for all ISPs, noted Jonathon Amlung, IgLou's attorney. "This establishes an important legal precedent for open access to DSL broadband services," said Amlung. "We believe this decision is the first of its kind against a Bell company."
The ruling is monumental, agreed Dean Brooks, co-founder of IgLou. "The decision restores a level playing field for IgLou and other ISPs in the Commonwealth of Kentucky," he said. "The ultimate success of broadband will depend heavily upon a wide level of consumer choice for access."
Seebert noted that a script has been set up in which customers who call BellSouth about ISP service are made aware of other ISP providers in the region.