Regional Bells Ink Wholesale Deals Opening Voice Network to Rivals

BellSouth Corp., the third largest local phone company, on Friday announced signing 100 commercial agreements that govern the terms under which rivals can access its voice network.

The commercial agreements replace government-mandated arrangements that expired today under FCC regulations.

Atlanta-based BellSouth said the agreements covered approximately 530,000 access lines in its nine-state territory.

The FCC voted in December to phase out a leasing platform that allowed competitive telecom providers to offer local phone service to millions of consumers and small businesses by leasing the regional Bell networks at low, government-mandated rates. BellSouth, Qwest Communications International Inc., SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. control the networks.

“The end of government-managed pricing and the signing of commercial agreements with CLECs brings much needed stability to the competitive telecommunications industry,” Rex Adams, BellSouth president of interconnection services, said in a statement.

Verizon, the No. 1 local phone provider, announced today that about 20 carriers had signed up for a commercial offer to replace the government arrangements while approximately 30 carriers had reached an interim pact with the New York-based company.

Qwest, the fourth largest local phone company, has reached commercial agreements with competitors covering approximately 95 percent of the local phone lines in its 14-state territory affected by the new regulations, according to Steve Davis, senior vice president of policy and law and deputy general counsel with Qwest.

A spokesperson for SBC, the second largest local phone provider, said the company was still compiling the number of commercial agreements it has reached with competitors.

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