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SBC Restrictions on DSL Are Illegal, Judge Rules

The firm is ordered to cease its practice of refusing to provide the service to people who switch phone carriers.

June 10, 2004|James S. Granelli | Times Staff Writer

SBC Communications Inc. is violating California law by refusing to make its high-speed Internet service -- SBC-Yahoo DSL -- available to customers who switch their local voice service to rival carriers, according to a decision Wednesday.

The ruling by a Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge states that SBC's refusal "is not just or reasonable" and that California's dominant local phone company must cease the practice.

The decision becomes effective in 30 days unless any party files an appeal to the PUC, or a commissioner requests a review.

Competitors have complained that SBC has unfairly maintained its control over local phone service partly by tying that to its DSL, or digital subscriber line, service.

SBC executives, who have not yet seen the decision, insisted Wednesday that the company didn't have to provide its DSL service to customers who wanted to move their local phone service to a rival.

"Based on what we know is in the record, we have no obligation to provide a retail resale DSL product," spokesman John Britton said.

He said DSL was offered by an SBC subsidiary only in an arrangement in which it shares the copper lines to homes with SBC.

The decision by Judge Anne E. Simon came in a case involving tiny Telscape Communications Inc. in Monrovia, which serves the Latino community primarily in Southern California.

Telscape complained to the PUC two years ago that SBC would not process orders for switching local customer service when the customer also subscribed to SBC-Yahoo. The rejected orders amounted to about 10% of Telscape's total orders, Simon wrote.

SBC's practice was so prevalent that giant competitors AT&T Corp. and MCI Inc. had instructed their salespeople to ask potential customers if they had SBC-Yahoo DSL and turn down their business if they did, Simon wrote.

AT&T and MCI now offer their own DSL service, mainly through Covad Communications Group Inc. in San Jose, in SBC territory. The territory covers about 78% of the state geographically and about 94% of all phone lines.

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