Regional Bell operating companies still must provide competitors with discounted access to their existing networks but not to new fiber-optic networks, the Federal Communications Commission voted last week.
Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, long-distance carriers such as AT&T are allowed to offer competitive service in RBOCs' regions.
Meanwhile, the four RBOCs,Qwest Communications International, SBC Communications, Verizon Communications and BellSouth,have been battling regulations requiring them to open their existing networks and new fiber-optic networks to competitors at a discount.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell said he disagreed with the FCC's decision, which also included a ruling that shifts more control of telecom deregulation to state utility commissions.
But David Morken, president of communications service provider Bandwidth.com, Durham, N.C., said the ruling helps keep telecom costs down. "If [the FCC] had stopped requiring [the RBOCs] to open up their networks at a discount, the pricing would go sky-high and there would be no competition, which isn't good for us or the customer," he said..