The Federal Communications Commission today ordered local telephone companies to assign some AT&T; customers to other companies if the customers don’t designate a long-distance carrier.
The FCC allocation directive is part of an order to the local companies to send ballots giving customers at least 50 days to select a long-distance company.
FCC Commissioner Mimi Weyforth Dawson said, “We are here to urge choice and allocation is a part of that.”
Chairman Mark S. Fowler said he regards the allocation plan as a “limited mandatory consumer education program.”
New equipment is being installed to route calls to all long-distance systems with the same dialing ease now available only to American Telephone & Telegraph Co. subscribers and without the need for the customer to dial a lengthy code. Customers may pick the company they believe will give them the best long-distance service.
Although delivery and installation of the routing equipment has been slow, the FCC was disappointed with the initial results because most local telephone companies decided to assign to AT&T; those customers who didn’t make a choice.
AT&T;'s competitors complained that the decision gave AT&T; an unfair advantage.
AT&T; countered that the customers are making a choice to stay with AT&T; by not responding to solicitations from MCI, Sprint, Allnet and other long-distance companies.
Northwestern Bell already randomly distributes customers who don’t return a ballot among the competing companies--including AT&T--in; the same proportion as those who do chose.
Northwestern sends ballots to customers and then tells customers before the final option expires which long-distance company they will be assigned to if they do not return the final ballot.
In the weeks since the FCC first said it would consider balloting and allocation, Bell Atlantic, Southwestern Bell, and US West have started or have announced plans for their own arrangements similar to the Northwestern Bell method.