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Bell Atlantic-Nynex merger endorsed as 'a natural' 2 'babies' now frolicking in same N.Y. bathtub


ORLANDO, Fla. -- A merger between Bell Atlantic Corp. and Nynex Corp. would be a "natural," Lawrence Babbio, vice chairman of Bell Atlantic, said yesterday.

The comments are perhaps the most enthusiastic to date about a merger of the two Baby Bells, which have already combined their cellular businesses.

"It's a natural because we share the New York market," Mr. Babbio said in an interview at the Gartner Group's Symposium in Orlando.

The New York metropolitan phone market extends between New York, where New York-based Nynex provides local services, and New Jersey, where Philadelphia-based Bell Atlantic provides services.

Nynex officials weren't immediately available for comment.

Many industry observers believe that there could be several alliances or mergers among the seven Bells as each tries to provide business and residential customers with everything from local and long-distance to wireless and cable-television services.

"As we know [the Bells] now, there will probably be four" in three to four years, said Ken McGee, analyst at Gartner Group, the Stamford, Connecticut-based market research firm.

Separately, Bell Atlantic said it expects to provide video services to 50 percent of the cable-TV subscribers in its five-state region, including Maryland, in five years. The company doesn't provide any commercial video services now. It is set to deploy video services to customers next year in Dover Township, New Jersey.

In other Bell Atlantic news, the company said yesterday it has launched a Visa credit and calling card that gives cash back toward the regional Bell's services and a discount from users' credit card bills.

The company said its customers will earn a $2 discount on their phone bills for every $100 spent on Bell Atlantic services, and a $1 discount for every $100 spent using the credit card.

The free card also will give a $3 credit for every $100 spent using it as a calling card. For the first six months, it will carry a flat 7.9 percent interest rate, then rise to the prime rate plus 8.9 percent.

Once the company is at full speed building the network, which Mr. Babbio expects in the second half of 1997, the network will reach 750,000 to 1 million homes a year.

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