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Regional phone companies ask court to block FCC ruling

SBC Communications Inc. and other regional telephone companies want to end government policies that have sent millions of residential customers to rivals offering attractive service packages.

Three regional telephone companies filed a petition yesterday to a federal appeals court asking it to halt a written order issued last week by the Federal Communications Commission reaffirming pro-competition policies. Should the court grant the petition, it could effectively end choice for local phone service.

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Robert B. Nelson, a member of the Michigan Public Service Commission, said the phone companies are asking for an "extraordinary remedy."

Nelson, who is also chairman of the telecommunications committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, said that group will oppose the petition.

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At issue are the wholesale rates local phone companies like SBC are required to charge rivals for using their network to supply customers with service. SBC and other dominant regional companies contend the government has set these rates at artificially low levels, causing them to lose money while subsidizing their rivals.

Long-distance carriers such as AT&T; Corp., MCI Group and Sprint have lured customers by reselling service they buy at wholesale rates and combining it with long distance.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


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