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  Federal Communications Commission FCC 99-404


Today, by a unanimous vote, the Commission has approved the application of Bell Atlantic to offer long distance service in the State of New York.

This is an historic moment for the American consumer, and it is an historic moment in the history of the Telecommunications Act.

First, while this action concerns long distance, the real story here is about opening up the local market for voice and broadband services. Today's action begins the delivery of one of the central promises of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 -- consumer choice in local telephone service and in new choices in the technologies of the 21st Century.

President Clinton said that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 "is truly revolutionary legislation that will bring the future to our doorstep." Today the FCC finds that Bell Atlantic has taken the steps required by the Act to let competitors into the New York market. The competitive future in local phone service is now on the doorstep of every citizen in the State of New York.

Second, this action marks the success of the Federal-State partnership that Congress intended. The dedicated staff of the FCC has poured all its energies into realizing the promise of this Act. This is a seminal order due in large measure to their exceptional skills. Much credit here also goes to the New York State Public Service Commission in pioneering work on the requirements and indices of local competition. And to the Department of Justice for their tireless vigilance and their expert insight.

The progress of local competition in New York is impressive. Competitive local carriers already serve over 1.3 million business and residential telephone lines, and over 55% of those lines are delivered over the competitors' own facilities. The states are becoming the laboratories for innovation in local competition, and we look forward to many paths toward this end.

Third, the road to this moment has not been easy. Shifting a $100 billion market even a few degrees is difficult. It takes time. It takes effort. Opening markets is hard work, and establishing competition is not easy, simple or quick. The local market today is where the long distance market was twenty years ago, but we don't have twenty years to make the local markets competitive. We need to do it now.

The Telecommunications Act is elegant in its simplicity. It says treat your competitors as you would have your competitors treat you. It's a kind of competitive Golden Rule. I commend Bell Atlantic for being the first to demonstrate that when this rule is followed, everyone benefits - - consumers, competitors and incumbents.

I urge all of the Bell Companies to do the same.

We intend, in partnership with the New York Commission, to remain vigilant and tough in enforcing the market-opening measures that form the basis of our approval here. We will not let the progress toward robust competition slow - not for an instant.

Today we are able to finally declare that the Berlin Wall of local phone monopoly in New York has been demolished and hauled away. Consumers in New York are now free to pass into an exciting new world of competition and choice in telephone service.

I look forward to repeating this day for the consumers in every state.