Competition heating up among Nevada telephone service providers

Two giants in the nation's telecommunications industry are facing off in Nevada over the rules set forth for competition in local and long distance service, while a smaller player is aiming to capture a portion of both markets in Northern Nevada.

Even as AT&T and SBC spar over Nevada Bell's request to become a long distance service provider, Advance TelCom Group is packaging local and long distance services for businesses here.

On Monday, Nevada Bell, a subsidiary of San Antonio-based SBC, asked the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to certify that Nevada Bell has met 14 federal requirements related to opening the local telephone market in its service area, a requirement before the Federal Communications Commission will let a local service provider offer long distance services.

AT&T responded by filing a complaint with the Nevada commission charging that Nevada Bell is violating a state law that says the company cannot charge long distance companies more to access its network to complete in-state calls than it does for state-to-state calls. WorldCom, another provider in the national long distance market, joined in the complaint.

Charlie Bolle, a commissioner-advisor on telecommunications on the Nevada commission, said the state agency's certification that the local telephone company has met the 14 items on the checklist is required under the Federal Telecommunications Act before Nevada Bell can provide long distance services.

"The FCC put out an order about how they expect the state agencies to act on these matters and provided us with a road map on what the FCC expects to take place," Bolle said Friday.

"There's a 160-day timeframe for the Nevada commission to come up with a final order," Bolle said. "If that actually happens, it will be the first time this type of approval has come that quickly."

Bolle said the same process in New York took three years. He said SBC, the local service "Baby Bell" that started as Southwest Bell after the federally mandated break-up of AT&T's local telephone service in the 1980s, was certified last month by Texas regulators as having a competitive market in local telephone service in that state.

"The telecommunications act provides that, before a local exchange company (like Nevada Bell) an offer long distance, the competitors in the local market have to have the same access to the infrastructures as the local exchange company," Bolle said.

Nevada Bell's announcement said the company plans to offer local and long distance vice services, wireless services, high speed Internet services and video entertainment products.

Meanwhile, Advanced TelCom has invested $10 million to set up its Northern Nevada operations including installation of its own switching equipment.

"The dial tone you get at your business comes from our switch," said Advanced TelCom general manager Mike Callahan.

Advanced TelCom is selling local and long distance voice services, Internet access and dedicated subscriber line (DSL) services to businesses in the Reno/Carson City area.

Callahan said the privately held company focuses on under-served, mid-sized markets, including Santa Rosa, Calif.; Salem, Ore.; Tacoma, Wash., and Reno on the West Coast and areas of New Jersey, northern Virginia, Maryland, southern Connecticut and New York on the East Coast.

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