N.Y telecom services halted by wiring snafu

N.Y telecom services halted by wiring snafu

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

Bell Atlantic Federal's Barbara Connor says GSA must buy or rent wiring in New York buildings.

Some federal buildings in New York cannot yet take advantage of competitive local phone service because Bell Atlantic Corp. owns their wiring.

The General Services Administration in December awarded contracts for local phone service in New York, Chicago and San Francisco to AT&T Corp. under the Metropolitan Area Acquisition program.

'We have not transitioned any customers over to MAA,' said Barbara Connor, president of Bell Atlantic Federal. She said there is no provision in the MAA contract for use of interior wiring, called house and riser cable, which belongs to the building owner in most cities.

'What had not been contemplated is that house and riser cable is owned by Bell Atlantic' in New York, Connor said. 'It is in fact a regulated service.'

GSA must either buy the wiring or rent it for a monthly fee if telephone service is provided by a competitor, she said.

Theirs or ours?

A GSA spokesman said the agency is considering what to do.

According to GSA, 2,165 federal customers in New York have moved to AT&T's MAA contract. But Bell Atlantic said they are customers AT&T picked up through its acquisition last year of another competitive local carrier. No Bell Atlantic lines had been transitioned as of early this month, the company said.

Bell Atlantic has agreed to pay a $3 million penalty to the Treasury Department for its poor handling of customer change orders from rival phone companies. Under the terms of a consent decree approved by the Federal Communications Commission this month, the company could forfeit up to $12 million a week if problems continue, or could lose the right to market long-distance phone service.

Bell Atlantic became the first regional Bell operating company to win the right to offer long-distance service in December, when it convinced the FCC its local market was open to competition.

Meanwhile, the FCC in February began investigating complaints that Bell Atlantic had lost or failed to acknowledge thousands of customer change orders submitted electronically to its automated operations support systems.

About 227,000 order complaints were lodged against Bell Atlantic between November and early February. Richard Welch of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau said the complaints came from mainly residential and small-business customers. He said he was not aware of any federal complaints.

Bell Atlantic officials called it a software glitch and said it has been corrected.

The $3 million payment is voluntary, and Bell Atlantic admits no wrongdoing. The company also has agreed to give $10 million in credits to competing local providers whose customers got lost in the software glitch. The consent decree halts the FCC investigation but does not preclude other complaint filings.

The consent decree requires Bell Atlantic to have at least a 90 percent weekly response rate to competitors' automated service requests. Failure to reach 90 percent for two consecutive weeks will result in a $4 million voluntary payment, followed by $8 million for the third week and $12 million for the fourth week. The company can avoid the $12 million payment if it stops marketing its long-distance service.

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