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Court Tells Ameritech To Drop Codes

July 9, 1999

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ The Michigan Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that local telephone companies cannot force customers to dial five or six extra digits in order to use another local long-distance service.

The dispute involves long-distance phone calls made within areas where Ameritech Michigan and long-distance companies like AT&T Corp. and MCI Communications Inc. compete head-to-head.

Ameritech had claimed it could require customers to dial a five-digit code before the call would be handled by another company. The other companies argued that state law required Ameritech to handle their calls just like any other long-distance call.

Officials said the ruling changes little that is in effect now, although the court returned the case to the state Public Service Commission for consideration of costs due various companies.

``From a customer standpoint nothing changes. ... It is business as usual,″ said Sara Snyder, a spokeswoman for Ameritech.

But Michael Pruyn, a spokesman for AT&T Communications of Michigan Inc., called it a win for consumers, who he said will save money as a result.

The decision comes after years of wrangling over opening Michigan’s long-distance market. It overturns part of a Court of Appeals ruling handed down earlier, including the lower court’s decision that PSC orders for Ameritech to cut some charges to the long-distance carriers were improper.

The PSC took up the dispute in 1992, and eventually ruled for the long-distance companies, telling Ameritech to get rid of the codes. It also ordered Ameritech to reduce access charges _ the fees it charged long-distance carriers for using its phone lines _ by 55 percent in areas that still required access codes.

Those decisions were reinstated by the Supreme Court on Thursday.

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