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Archive for Saturday, May 5, 2001

Feds probe SBC

Phone giant could lose long-distance authority

May 5, 2001

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— The parent of Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. is under investigation for allegedly supplying inaccurate information to get government approval for long-distance service in Oklahoma and Kansas.

SBC Communications' long-distance authority could be withdrawn or it could face fines if regulators find that the company intentionally misled them and its competitors.

The Federal Communications Commission is examining affidavits filed in October by three executives for SBC Communications, company spokeswoman Saralee Boteler said Friday.

She said SBC found a discrepancy in how it described how its highly technical and complex computer systems provided information to competitors interested in providing digital subscriber line service, a form of high-speed Internet access.

The discrepancy, which the company said was unintentional, was reported to the FCC in an April 13 letter, Boteler said. Such a disclosure automatically leads to an FCC investigation.

"We found the discrepancy, we reported it as soon as we found it," Boteler said. "We put a fix in place."

The information detailed whether advanced Internet access was available to particular customers through DSL technology, she said.

The erroneous information prevented a competitor, Dallas-based IP Communications, from selling high-speed Internet services to some SBC customers, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But Boteler said there was no adverse effect because of the errors, which have been corrected. SBC's own high-speed Internet access subsidiary, ASI, relied on the same information, she said.

The SBC failed in two bids to get approval for long-distance service in Oklahoma, but was granted permission two days into the Bush administration partly because of submission of the false information, according to newspaper reports.

Three of its competitors Sprint, AT&T and WorldCom have appealed an FCC decision in January granting SBC long-distance authority.

The three long-distance companies say SBC failed to meet a competitive checklist of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and did not offer competitors cost-based rates for use of its networks and switches.

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