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Bell Expects N.Y. Decision Soon

March 12, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bell Atlantic expects New York telecommunications regulators to decide soon whether the company has met a key test in its efforts to provide long-distance service to local phone customers in the state, Chairman Ivan Seidenberg said Thursday.

Specifically, Seidenberg said he expects New York regulators to decide whether Bell Atlantic’s computer systems, which rival local phone companies depend on to sign up and bill new customers, have passed the ``stress test″ _ meaning its computers can process a heavy load of orders.

If the company passes that test, it’s likely to win state regulatory approval for its long-distance application. Then Bell Atlantic will ask the Federal Communications Commission for permission to provide long-distance service in New York _ the last major regulatory hurdle to selling long-distance in New York, part of its local phone territory.

``After almost two years of effort, we’re about to crack the code,″ Seidenberg told telecommunications and Internet analysts meeting here.

Federal policy-makers and analysts believe Bell Atlantic will be the first regional Bell telephone company to win Federal Communications Commission approval to provide long-distance service to some of its local phone customers.

The FCC has turned down previous long-distance applications by other Bell companies, saying they haven’t sufficiently opened their local phone markets to rivals _ a condition for entering the long-distance field.

Separately, Seidenberg expressed interest in letting callers pay for calls to mobile phones just as they do regular phone calls.

In the United States, the receiver of a mobile-phone call _ not the caller _ typically foots the bill. As a result, many Americans switch off their phones to avoid unwanted calls. In Europe and Asia, however, it’s the caller who usually pays.

``With this one simple change, we could extend wireless to a whole new segment of the consumer marketplace,″ Seidenberg said.

Last month, FCC Chairman Bill Kennard expressed support for the caller-pays approach, saying it would encourage people to make more calls from mobile phones. Some companies now provide some form of this.

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