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Battling Telephone Companies In Preliminary Agreement On Access Fees

A group of telephone companies is making some progress with a preliminary plan for a payment structure for the fees telephone companies charge each other, which has been a contentious issue for years.

Called the Intercarrier Compensation Forum, the group includes a former regional Bell operating company (RBOC), SBC Communications, as well as long distance giants AT&T and MCI. The three remaining RBOCs -- BellSouth, Qwest, and Verizon -- have all dropped out of the Forum. The RBOCs and the long distance firms have been in bitter contention over the access fees the RBOCs charge the long distance firms to connect to their local networks.

Of note in the latest proposal is a provision that would permit the RBOCs to raise consumers' monthly phone bills, according to media reports.

"They still have a long way to go," said Pete Wilson, president and CEO of telephone consultancy Telwares Inc. "It's going to be like trying to solve world hunger. I don't think it's going anywhere without Verizon and BellSouth."

Indeed, many of the telephony issues addressed by the Forum have defied solution ever since the old AT&T was broken up two decades ago.

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