FCC Slaps SBC Over Access

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday ruled that SBC blocked competitors from accessing its long-distance lines, opening the door for two rival telecoms to pursue monetary damages.

In their complaint, Core and Z-Tel alleged that SBC’s actions in 13 states violated SBC/Ameritech merger terms as well as the Communications Act.

In the Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin markets, the regulatory agency agreed. It rejected Core
and Z-Com’s claims in the remaining eight states in SBC’s coverage area, SBC said.

SBC ran afoul of the FCC in the past on this issue and was fined $6 million in October.

As it did then, the company disagrees with the FCC’s interpretation of the SBC/Ameritech merger agreement.
The FCC approved the merger between SBC and Ameritech in October 1999 after adopting 30 conditions to ensure the deal would serve the public interest.

“The merger conditions were meant to help competitors provide local phone service,” SBC said in a statement. “We do not believe that the letter or the spirit of that condition forces us to un-bundle our Midwest network for
use in providing long-distance service.”

A spokesman added that the company, which also provides Internet access and other services, is reviewing the decision and weighing its options.

Meanwhile, Core, of New York, and Z-Tel, of Tampa, will ahve to decide wheither to return to the FCC to seek damages or file suit in federal court for anitrust violations.

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