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AT&T Floats Access Fee Proposal

The latest salvo fired in the great telephony access fee wars is from AT&T, which is proposing a complicated formula for taking over some parts of the regional Bell network near end subscribers. AT&T said the "groundbreaking offer" provides "a smooth, equitable transition to facilities-based competition."

AT&T and the regional Bells -- BellSouth, Qwest, SBC, and Verizon -- have been engaged in a furious spate of proposals and counter proposals ever since a U. S. Court of Appeals ruling last month favored the Bells enabling them to raise the fees they charge for access to their networks. Both sides complain access fees thwart them from making a decent profit with the Bells arguing they want higher fees and long distance providers like AT&T protesting they are being charged too much.

In its proposal Thursday, AT&T suggested that it stop leasing the switches involved in connecting to the Bells' lines and instead will provide its own equipment, or lease switches from other providers. The Court of Appeals decision -- which most observers believe will be appealed to the Supreme Court -- will enable the Bells to hike the fees.