Officials Aim to Set Guidelines for Utilities Competition Lining Up in Telecommunications

Article excerpt

The Telecommunications Act of 1995 opens up many markets for companies large and small, and St. Peters is trying to determine how to regulate the competition.

The city's administration has been advocating three ordinances that would establish guidelines and set regulations for any utility company doing business in St. Peters.

Dick Shoemaker of GTE says all municipalities will be facing this issue because of the national deregulation of the telecommunications industry. Cities are going to be inundated with requests for access to the public rights of way. Some form of regulation is needed.

"Our position is: Do it and do it right," Shoemaker said. "We don't want the city using this as a bargaining tool to get free service. Legally, we can't offer that."

Both GTE and Southwestern Bell have service areas in St. Peters. Both companies have major problems with a bill that establishes "procedures and requirements relating to public and private telecommunications franchises to ensure that construction of facilities in, along, under and over public rights of way and other public rights of way by telecommunication entities are consistent with and serve the public interest."

This bill is a 29-page document written by Leland B. Curtis, who is with a law firm in Clayton.

Two other lengthy bills deal with access to the rights of way for all utility companies, including Union Electric and Laclede Gas, and with the city's request for detailed information on all access lines and all future lines, including the digitalization of these by the year 2000.

Representatives of the utility companies met with five members of the Board of Aldermen and five other city officials in a seven-hour session last weekend to try to reach some agreements.

"Nothing was really resolved," said Betty Woelfel, president of the Board of Aldermen. "Leland Curtis seemed to think we made good progress, but there are a lot of unresolved issues."

City Administrator Robert Irvin said he hoped the aldermen could consider the bill dealing with rights of way at this week's meeting, but Woelfel said that was impossible. She was in favor of tabling any action on all three bill.

William B. Bobnar, an attorney representing Union Electric, has been involved in these discussions for at least six months. He said there was a good exchange of information at Saturday's meeting.

"My feeling is there is almost too much information to digest," Bobnar said.

With three complicated proposals before them, the aldermen asked for Saturday's session to see whether they could have a better understanding of the issues. City administrative officials have been explaining why they need these new ordinances, and the aldermen have listened to the utility companies explain that these regulations are unfair and expensive and that the costs would be passed on to their customers, residents of St. Peters.

GTE serves about 15,000 customers in St. …