The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Thursday postponed
consideration of Southwestern Bell Telephone's application to
long-distance service in Oklahoma, pending outcome of federal court
The decision came amid pledges from the commissioners to
vigorously support efforts opening the state's telecommunications
markets to competition and left one commissioner questioning what he
called an orchestrated attempt by Southwestern Bell to focus public
opinion pressure on the agency.
Commissioner Bob Anthony submitted a packet of letters from
companies supporting the Bell application. He included press
releases and advertisements issued by Bell claiming savings of
between 50 percent and 67 percent on long-distance, an estimated
savings of $40 million to Oklahoma consumers, should the commission
approve the company's initiative.
He suggested the company's publicity efforts were designed to
generate public pressure on the corporation commissioners to rule
favorably upon the application.
Curt Long, Southwestern Bell attorney, said he had not undertaken
any such effort.
"I feel there is an indication that I orchestrated this," Long
said of the various letters. "The record should be crystal clear. I
have not orchestrated anything. I did not see the ads before they
ran. I have not seen these letters until today. They appear to me
to be comments from the public urging you to favorably support our
applications. As elected officials, it is proper for the public to
communicate with you."
Both Commission Chair Ed Apple and Commissioner Denise Bode said
their vote for the continuance should not be seen as a lessening of
desire to bring meaningful competition to Oklahoma's
Apple had initially shocked hearing participants with a motion to
approve the Bell application based on the written record. Approval
would be subject to pending federal court action.
"That way if the federal courts lift the stay, the process will
already be in place without requiring any further commission
Apple said. "This genuinely indicates that Oklahoma and the Oklahoma
Corporation Commission strongly support competition in the
Apple said that Oklahoma has been a leader in spurring competition
in utility markets. He said a timely decision is needed to move the
process forward. The federal courts have made this difficult, Apple
said, stressing that Oklahoma should not build more delays into the
system. He said the commission needs to make an independent decision
based on what is best for the citizens of Oklahoma.
"I don't intend to let my agenda be dictated by what may or may
not happen (in court). I am trying to break down a barrier," Apple
said. "We want to unclog everything we can in this process."
Bode said she too strongly supports creating a competitive
telecommunications market in the state. But, she suggested the
process should follow the regular procedure of allowing cross-
examination and accepting additional debate. …