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AT&T Dropped From Dow As It Fights RBOCs

Fighting regional phone companies with one hand and introducing VoIP on a nationwide basis with the other hand, AT&T took a hit Thursday when the firm was dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

While the deletion from the stock index was essentially symbolic, the move came as AT&T's continues to battle against the access fees charged by the former Regional Bell companies (RBOCs). Moreover, the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on access fees supports the RBOCs against AT&T and other long distance providers on the issue.

"The decision is a black cloud," said Pete Wilson, president of Telewares Communications, a telecom consulting firm based in Destin, Fla.. "If the decision stands, it has to give the carriers pause. The RBOCs are feeling good about it."

While the FCC and the RBOCs are urging AT&T and the other long distance providers to reach agreement on access charges, the issue is moving to some state jurisdictions. The issue is different from state-to-state, however. In Indiana, for instance, AT&T is challenging an effort by SBC Communications to raise some fees by 30 percent while in Illinois legislators and regulators are fighting to keep the wholesale access fees stable.

Wilson, whose telephony consultancy works with large business enterprises, said it's possible that state contracts "will trump the Washington court ruling."

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