PHILADELPHIA: Last week saw the climax of a bitter PR battle over
local and long-distance service in Pennsylvania between Verizon and
In 1999, Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission (PUC) ordered Verizon
to separate its wholesale and retail businesses. AT&T supported the
decision on the basis that the move would create a better market for
But last week, the PUC modified its ruling and said Verizon would not
have to split, so long as it provided for open competition. While making
the ruling, however, PUC chairman John Quain attacked Verizon's media
campaign, calling it, 'an extensive, systematic campaign of
misinformation,' according to the AP.
Both Verizon and AT&T have used press releases, media relations,
grassroots and advertising to advance their sides of the debate.
The struggle began long before the formation of Verizon from Bell
Atlantic and GTE.
AT&T has claimed that Verizon, the incumbent local provider, is trying
to thwart competition. Verizon countered that AT&T was employing
delaying tactics to keep it out of the long-distance market.
Verizon also objected to AT&T's involvement with a group called
Pennsylvanians for Local Competition (PLC), which has been lobbying for
the opening of the local market.
Verizon has also been involved with an association called Pennsylvanians
for Total Competition.
Lenora Vesio, AT&T's director of media for Pennsylvania, said that
consumers, not AT&T, are making their voices heard about dissatisfaction
'Our goal is to get a healthy environment for competition,' she
An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last week by AT&T chairman C.
Michael Armstrong called for unilateral structural separation.
Verizon defended its tactics. 'We were under heavy attack by the largest
telecom on the planet,' said Eric Rabe, VP of media relations.