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PacBell Says AT&T, MCI Ads Violate Law

March 13, 1997|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

In the latest skirmish between local and long-distance phone companies, Pacific Bell on Wednesday accused AT&T and MCI of violating the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 by jointly marketing their local and long-distance services.

The San Francisco-based Baby Bell filed a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission after the long-distance firms advertised their comprehensive calling services in bus and print advertisements in San Francisco, Sacramento and other Northern California communities. PacBell asked the PUC to order AT&T and MCI to halt those marketing activities immediately.

Long-distance companies "are prohibited from marketing those local services in combination with long-distance services" until local phone companies are allowed to compete in the long-distance business, said Lee Bauman, vice president of local competition for Pacific Bell.

Kathi Oram, a spokeswoman for AT&T in San Francisco, said the company ran ads in December touting the breadth of its services. But that doesn't violate the joint marketing prohibition in the federal law, she said.

"We can't say, 'Sign up for AT&T local service and we'll give you a discount on long-distance,' or vice versa," Oram said.

AT&T and MCI will face off against PacBell parent Pacific Telesis Group on Friday, when the state Public Utilities Commission will hear oral arguments about PacTel's proposed merger with SBC Communications.

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