Telecommunications coalition presents universal service plan for competitive marketplace Telecommunications coalition presents universal service plan for competitive marketplace


A coalition of telecommunications companies and the state's largest independent representative of utility consumers today announced its proposal on universal telephone service to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The plan reinforces the Coalition's commitment to providing phone service to low income and rural customers throughout California in a competitive local telephone market.

The Coalition proposal outlines how revising universal service, a policy which seeks to ensure telephone availability regardless of economic or geographic factors, can be successful in a competitive environment. The plan proposes a competitive neutral funding mechanism for universal service. In turn, new competitors will have access to subsidy funds to serve both low income and high cost customers.

`Universal service has been the cornerstone of existing national and state telecommunications policy. Existing universal service policies have been designed for a world with only monopoly telephone providers, such as Pacific Bell and GTE,` explained Ann Gressani of MCI, a Coalition spokesperson.

`The Coalition's proposals are designed to adapt universal service policies to the new competitive marketplace and foster widespread competition for all services and in all geographic ares of the state,` said Gressani.

`These universal service rules will drive down the costs and rates, and reduce whatever subsidy amounts may be necessary to support affordable basic telephone service for low income customers and high cost geographic areas,` said Gressani.

The Coalition recognizes a need for consumer safeguards. A local exchange company would be required to provide to its customers annual written descriptions of services and rates.

The Coalition was established in December 1994 to work toward a competitive telecommunications marketplace in California that brings the choice, affordability and quality of service that a monopoly system cannot. Members include: AT&T, Bay Area Teleport, California Association of Long Distance Telephone Companies, California Committee for Large Telecommunications Consumers, California Cable Television Association, ICG Access Service Inc., MCI Telecommunications, MFS Intelenet Inc., Sprint, Teleport Communications Group, Time Warner AxS of California, and Toward Utility Rate Normalization (TURN).

The CPUC took the first step toward making the local telephone marketplace competitive on Jan. 1, 1995, when limited competition for local toll (or intraLATA) calls became effective. The CPUC has set itself a deadline of Jan. 1, 1997, for opening all telecommunications markets to competitive entry.

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