Qwest Long Distance Application Approved

Qwest Communications International has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to re-enter the long-distance market in nine western states.

The Denver telecommunications carrier will begin taking orders in Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming by mid-January. Qwest currently provides local service to nine million customer lines in those states.

Additionally, Qwest plans to apply for long-distance in Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon and South Dakota in early 2003.

“Today’s approval definitively proves that our markets are open to competition and that we have met the requirements of the Telecommunications Act of 1996,” said Steve Davis, Qwest senior vice president of policy and law.

The act, aimed at giving customers more choices and better rates, requires local phone service providers to open their lines and facilities to competitors before they can sell long-distance. Qwest said it has spent more than $3 billion to open its local markets to competitors and comply with the law.

Adding long-distance service is seen as an important step in the survival and expansion plans of regional telecoms. Last week, SBC Communications also convinced FCC officials that it should be allowed to sell long-distance in California.

In other Qwest news, the company said it has cut its debt load by $1.9 billion, or nearly 8 percent, in a tender offer. The move reduces the possibility of a bankruptcy filing for the company, which like others in its sector has endured a difficult year that included an investigation into its accounting practices.

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