FCC Acts to Offer Choice on Distance Calls

From Associated Press

The Federal Communications Commission Friday ordered local telephone companies to assign some AT&T; customers to other companies if the customers do not 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.”

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.


Assign Customers

Although delivery and installation of the 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 did not make a choice.

AT&T;'s competitors complained that decision gave AT&T; an unfair advantage.

AT&T; has countered that the customers are making a choice to stay with AT&T.;


There will be a major push this summer to install the equipment. Therefore, AT&T; competitors have been pushing hard to get the system changed before huge blocks of customers are converted to the “equal access” system that allows long-distance dialing through all telephone companies with a simple “1,” the area code and phone number.

These companies preferred the balloting and allocation system used by Northwestern Bell, which randomly distributes customers who do not return a ballot among the competing companies--including AT&T--in; the same proportion as those who did choose.

AT&T; has claimed all along that most customers who went to AT&T; by default knew they would be assigned to AT&T; unless they connected to another company.