Published November 19, 2002
Volume 10, Number 11

SBC Nears Entry to California Long Distance Market
Ruling by U.S. Department of Justice Backs Local Telecom Company’s Efforts

Joe Carrisalez looks forward to serving California customers.

By George Walsh
Special to Network

SBC, the company that merged with Pacific Bell a few years ago to become our region’s local telecommunications service provider, announced last month that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approve the company’s entry into the California long distance market. 

The DOJ's endorsement of SBC's application followed a thorough review of the company's operations in California and is a key step in the long distance application and approval process. The final step in SBC’s quest to provide long distance service in Northern California is approval by the FCC. Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC is required to give "substantial weight" to the DOJ's evaluation and final recommendation. SBC Long Distance leases approximately 84,000 square feet of office space at 5850 W. Las Positas Blvd. here in Hacienda and currently provides long distance telephone service in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas.

More than 25 states already have approval to let local telephone companies provide long distance services. The good news for consumers is that more competition often leads to less expensive phone bills. 

“Generally, the pattern is that as you get another player that comes in, the competitors start lowering their rates as well,” says Joe Carrisalec, executive director for regulatory issues at SBC Long Distance. “So, you’ll start seeing other companies combining local service with long distance to give you a lower rate. We’ll be able to offer one-stop shopping for customers where they won’t have two separate bills for long distance and for local service. We’ll also have plans that will not have a minimum monthly charge on them. Whether you make one call or a hundred calls, the plan will have no monthly fee.”

In its decision, the DOJ agreed that SBC satisfies the federal requirements necessary to receive authority to provide long distance service to California customers. The FCC's own statistics show that 85 percent of zip codes in California have competitors offering local phone service and nearly 50 percent have at least four competitors. On November 4, SBC will file reply comments with the FCC on its long distance application. The Commission must reach a decision by December 19. 

“We’re ready to go as soon as we receive the approval,” Carrisalec says. “We’ll get the decision on the 19th and it’s effective within ten days.” SBC could be offering long distance to its customers as early as the December 27th of this year.

SBC’s entrance into the California long-distance telephone service market could have a bigger impact than simply lowering rates. “In terms of the long distance company, it does bring more jobs,” Carrisalec says. 

While SBC can’t specify just how many new jobs will be created, increasing employment and lowering phone rates should prove to be a positive contribution to the Northern California economy. With SBC’s national long distance telephone operation based in Pleasanton, more positive economic impact could occur here as the company moves to provide service in other parts of the U.S.

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