PROPOSED BILL RINGS ALARMS FOR BELLS

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The Baby Bells got their wish for fresh competition in the tele communications arena through new legislation. But a draft of the bill introduced last week by Senate Com merce Committee Chairman Sen. Larry Pressler, (R.,S.D.) was ex ac tly the opposite of what many Baby Bells hoped to see. The proposed legislation also raised questions for long-distance players, as well as introducing new pricing and competitive quandaries for broadcast and ca ble TV operators. But the Baby Bells reacted with the most alarm. They say the draft bill would allow long-distance carriers into local phone markets within one year, while Baby Bells would have to wait up to three years to offer long-distance services. Their entry to the long-distance market would be contingent upon their willingness to let others into their own markets first.

"When markets are opened to competition, prices come down and the game becomes one of marketing and packaging. But Baby Bells can't compete in our own arenas if we aren't allowed to offer the same package of services as our competitors," said Gary McBee, chairman, Alliance for Competitive Communications, which represents all seven Baby Bells.

The newly named Washington, D.C.-based organization began a search this month for an agency to assist with local advertising and lobbying efforts in Washington, Mr. McBee said.

AT&T "strongly disagrees" with many elements of the proposed legislation, as did other long-distance players.

The bill also proposes removing cable TV rate limits within a year, and removing caps on the number of broadcast TV stations companies can own. Broadcast and cable TV operators were divided on the draft bill's effects, which reverse many regulations passed by Congress only two years ago.

Despite contentiousness within the industry, most telecommunications industry players agree new legislation is long overdue.

"Pressure is building on everyone to resolve this issue ... The moment we are cleared for wide-open competition-including the opportunity to sell our customers local, long-distance and video services all at once-we are prepared to go forth at warp speed," an Ameritech spokesman said.

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