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December 24, 1997


BellSouth has made significant progress towards opening the market for local telephone service in South Carolina, as is demonstrated in its application to provide in-region interLATA service and by the record in this proceeding. In addition to beginning to build a solid foundation for local competition, BellSouth has helped this Commission analyze the conditions that Congress specified must be met before we have the authority to grant an application under section 271 of the Communications Act.

I look forward to even greater cooperation between the Commission and BellSouth and the other Bell operating companies (BOCs), as we jointly endeavor to hasten BOC entry into in-region long distance service. As I have previously stated, by working together before a section 271 application is filed, the Commission and BOC staffs, as well as state representatives, the Department of Justice, and other interested parties, can seek to eliminate uncertainties and resolve potential disputes that otherwise could interfere with a BOC's attempt to satisfy the requirements of section 271. Commission staff have begun to initiate such discussions with various BOCs and other parties. I am committed to seeing that this dialogue continues and grows in an open process, and I am committed to the goal of creating and expanding choice and value for consumers in local and long distance telephone service. I look forward to the Commission being able to declare a local market open.

Congress has created the framework that the Commission must follow in evaluating applications filed under section 271. It is imperative that we implement that framework in a way that promotes competition and is faithful to the letter of the statute. Although our duty in this regard compels us to deny the BellSouth application before us, I believe that BellSouth's efforts have moved us much closer to the day when a BOC will have satisfied the conditions for entry into in-region long distance service. That day is fast approaching.