Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AT&T, MCI Band Together BellSouth's Long-Distance Plans Spawn Unlikely Alliance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AT&T, MCI Band Together BellSouth's Long-Distance Plans Spawn Unlikely Alliance

Article excerpt

BellSouth Corp. yesterday asked the Federal Communications

Commission for permission to offer long-distance telephone

service in South Carolina -- and its next target is Florida.

But the competition is banding together to forge a defense.

The paperwork is flowing, and so is the rhetoric.

"As far as MCI is concerned, it's way too premature for

BellSouth to receive approval," said Eileen Mullen, a

spokeswoman for MCI.

Mullen was in Jacksonville yesterday, part of an unusual

alliance of MCI and AT&T, normally bitter rivals but right now

united against BellSouth.

They say BellSouth wants to get in on their long-distance

business. And at the same time, they say, BellSouth is doing

everything it can to keep them from offering local service to

residential and business customers.

BellSouth has the upper hand, because the competitors want to

use BellSouth's lines.

The obstacles BellSouth throws up range from charging

excessively high fees for using its equipment to making it tough

for competitors to use BellSouth computers, said Thomas Bond, an

MCI attorney and part of the group that hit Jacksonville

yesterday.

But apparently everything is fair in love, war and the

telephone business.

"I would be less-than-honest if I didn't tell you if I was

sitting in the other seat, I would probably do some of the same

things," said John Spooner Jr., AT&T's lobbyist in Tallahassee.

"I mean, you protect what you've got and you play the game

hard," said Spooner. He said GTE and Sprint were just as tough

to deal with as BellSouth.

There are big dollars in the long-distance business.

BellSouth figures it's worth $8 billion a year in sales in its

ninestate region and has said it could capture at least $1.6

billion a year of that business, which would come out of the

pockets of companies like AT&T and MCI. And that's a

conservative number, Spooner said.

Spooner said only 600 people in Florida, who live near

Orlando, enjoy full competitive choice of telephone service,

which means Florida cannot be considered a state where telephone

service is competitive. …

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