Long-distance plan draws questioning

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Justice Department has raised more questions -- and withheld its support -- on Southwestern Bell's application to offer long-distance service in Missouri and Arkansas.

The evaluation released Monday marks the second time the department has criticized Southwestern Bell's Missouri proposal, which is pending before the Federal Communications Commission.

After earlier criticism, Southwestern Bell withdrew its application and submitted a new one with lower rates for competitors to use its local telephone lines in Missouri.

Despite renewed criticism, the company is optimistic of winning FCC approval to offer long distance in both Missouri and Arkansas, said Mike Meroney, a spokesman for SBC Communications, Southwestern Bell's parent company.

Southwestern Bell has won FCC approval to offer long-distance service in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Meroney said the applications for Kansas and Oklahoma received similar criticism from the Justice Department.

In Monday's critique, the Justice Department said the FCC should review the prices Southwestern Bell charges for rivals to use its local telephone network in Missouri.

The department also said Southwestern Bell has not adequately resolved problems with its maintenance and repair systems to allow electronic access to competitors in Arkansas and Missouri.

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