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Competitive Industry Groups to Merge


As the competitive telecom services
industry seeks to marshal its forces under increasing pressure from changing regulations, the two remaining organizations with CLEC memberships have announced their intentions to merge.

CompTel/ASCENT on Dec. 3 announced plans to merge with the Association for Local Telecommunications Services (ALTS) - the third such combination for the group over the last few years. CompTel merged with the America’s Carriers Telecommunications Association in spring 1999 and ASCENT in fall 2003.

The news of the most recent merger came just days after longtime CompTel/ASCENT CEO H. Russell Frisby Jr. announced his resignation (see story below) and a week before the FCC was scheduled to release its permanent rules in the agency’s Triennial Review of ILEC unbundling requirements. The association now faces different challenges following the loss of access to UNE-P and potential loss of other UNEs.

ALTS also comes to the merger without a leader. John Windhausen Jr. resigned the post he held for five years in October, following the inadvertent publication of the association’s strategic plan by law firm Swidler & Berlin. While the incident sped his departure, he said he had been advocating for new leadership under a Republican. “I had in the past mentioned to ALTS that it might be time to find a Republican,” he said at the time. “That had been percolating for a while.”

Julia Strow, chair of the ALTS Operating Board assumed the ALTS presidency on an interim basis. Frisby, however, will stay on to lead CompTel/ASCENT following the merger and until a replacement is found. A joint search committee has been formed but no timetable has been set. Frisby says he expects to remain at the helm at least through the next CompTel/ASCENT Convention & Expo, which will be held in Feb. 14-17 in New Orleans.

Executives aligned with the two groups say the proposed merger represents a unified voice for the competitive industry and will facilitate lobbying on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have expressed a desire to reform telecommunications law.

The ALTS and CompTel/ASCENT pairing - discussed in industry circles for years but pursued seriously since October 2004 - would have more than 400 members. CompTel/ASCENT generates about $4 million in annual revenue, according to Frisby; Strow says ALTS does about $1 million.

Under the MOU, the proposed merger is expected to close on or about Jan. 15, 2005. At that time, the ALTS Executive Committee and CompTel/ASCENT Board of Directors would be combined to form a 31-member board for the new association. CompTel/ASCENT Chairman J. Sherman Henderson III would serve as chairman of the new association. ALTS Chairman James F. Geiger and CompTel/ASCENT Vice Chairman Richard E. Burk would serve as co-vice chairmen. Joseph Ambersley, CompTel/ASCENT’s vice chairman/treasurer, would serve as vice chairman/treasurer of the new organization.

A new executive committee would be formed, comprised of 11 members of the new board of directors. The new name of the association would be agreed upon by the board. Elections for a new board would be held at the planned CompTel/ASCENT Fall Convention & Expo in Miami in October 2005.

The staff of ALTS and CompTel/ASCENT would be combined, and the association would be headquartered at the current CompTel/ASCENT offices in Washington. Frisby says layoffs are not expected. CompTel/ASCENT has 13 employees; ALTS has three fulltime employees and two part-time positions as well as the president’s slot, which is being temporarily filled by Strow.

Links

CompTel/ASCENT www.comptelascent.org
Association for Local Telecommunications Services www.alts.org


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