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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.

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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.;

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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.


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