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SBC Asks To Offer More Long Distance

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WASHINGTON (AP) _SBC Communications, the nation's second largest local phone provider, asked federal regulators Thursday for permission to provide long-distance service to local customers in both Kansas and Oklahoma.

Seizing on a strategy to become a one-stop communications provider, SBC wants to build on its base of local customers to offer them long-distance and high-speed Internet service. The company's application comes just a day after the nation's top long-distance carrier, AT&T, announced a plan to slice itself into four businesses.

Some analysts believe that AT&T's decision, which severs its long-distance business from its cable and wireless holdings, will open the door for growing Bell companies like SBC to enter and then dominate the long-distance market.

Under a 1996 telecommunications law, the Bells cannot enter the lucrative long-distance business within their region until they have demonstrated that their local phone markets are open to competition.

That process requires SBC to show compliance with an extensive checklist, ensuring that rival local phone companies can lease lines to offer competing service or switch over customers.

SBC received federal approval to sell long-distance in Texas in June and has since signed on more than a million consumers.

The Federal Communications Commission has 90 days to rule on the applications and must take into account evaluations submitted by state regulators and the Justice Department. State commissioners in both Kansas and Oklahoma have lent their support to SBC's bid.

The company says that local phone competition is growing in both states with rival businesses serving more than 10 percent of consumer phone lines in each state.

``The bottom line is that we are looking forward to continuing to serve as a catalyst for real competition in Kansas and Oklahoma,'' said Priscilla Hill-Ardoin, a senior vice president at SBC, which is based in San Antonio, Texas.

But telephone rivals argue that SBC is relying heavily on testing done in the Texas market to show that the Kansas and Oklahoma are open to competition.

``Local and long-distance competition is good for everyone, but fair competition won't develop if SBC is allowed to skirt ... open market requirements by assuming every state is Texas,'' said David Eisenberg, a vice president at Sprint Corp.


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