For Immediate Release
Tuesday, February 8, 2000
Contact: Ranjit de Silva
PROPOSED CHANGES IN FCC ACCESS CHARGE
MUST PRODUCE CLEAR CONSUMER BENEFITS, COMMERCE
OFFICIAL TELLS COMMISSION
Washington - Proposed changes in the Federal Communications Commission's interstate access charge structure currently under consideration by the agency must produce "clear and demonstrable consumer benefits," Gregory L. Rohde, assistant secretary for communications and information and head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, (NTIA) told the FCC in a letter today.
The Coalition for Affordable Local and Long Distance Service (CALLS), a coalition of several large local and long distance companies, has petitioned the FCC to reform the current access charge regime. Generally, "access charges" refer to fees that long distance companies pay local telephone companies to use their local exchange facilities to originate or terminate long distance calls. The CALLS plan, according to the coalition, could result in a reduction in fees that long distance carriers pay by at least $5.8 billion cumulatively over five years.
Rohde noted that NTIA recognizes that access charge reform can result in important competitive benefits and may be necessary to ensure that the interstate access charge regime is compatible with the competitive environment spawned by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
"But reform (of the access charge structure) will further the public interest only if it also produces clear benefits for consumers," Rohde said. On the CALLS plan, Rohde's comments indicated that NTIA believes that the plan contains provision that merit serious consideration, but that any FCC access charge reform order should include the following elements:
NTIA serves as the principal adviser to the President, Vice President and Secretary of Commerce on domestic and international communications and information policies and represents the Executive Branch before the Congress, other Federal agencies, foreign governments and international organizations. Information about NTIA and NTIA activities can be found at www.ntia.doc.gov and on the Digital Divide website www.digitaldivide.gov