Cox Communications says proposed rules would deregulate SBC

Wednesday, December 8th 2004, 6:21 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Proposed rules before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will render moot regulators' study on deregulating the state's largest phone service provider, according to Cox Communications.

Cox, in a joint filing with AT&T Monday, said the rules, if adopted at the commission's Dec. 15 meeting, will effectively free SBC Communications from the state's regulation before the study is completed.

The commission began a study Friday to determine whether the state's phone market has enough competition to allow deregulation. The study was proposed by a task force lawmakers formed last spring.

Lawmakers shelved a bill during last legislative session that would have deregulated SBC, formerly known as Southwestern Bell. The measure was the subject of a television campaign by opponents AT&T, MCI and cable companies, like Atlanta-based Cox.

SBC controls more than 80 percent of the land lines in the state, and opponents warn deregulation would squeeze out competitors and produce higher rates. SBC says deregulation would even the playing field for all telecommunications providers, and the consumer would ultimately benefit.

The commission is expected to consider the rules proposed by its telecommunications staff at the commission's Dec. 15 meeting, spokesman Matt Skinner said.

Cox objects to many portions of the proposed rules, including a provision that would allow SBC to bundle regulated with unregulated services. Cox said that would allow SBC to avoid regulation altogether.

San Antonio-based SBC, in its filing, accused Cox of trying to convince the commission to pull the state backward in its policy and trying to prevent competition in local phone service.