by Manny Aguilar
Pacific Bell external affairs director
There is little doubt that the world in general is getting smaller, and with continued advancements in the telecommunications industry this phenomenon is sure to continue. Families who once found themselves separated by thousands of miles, or even across the globe from one another, can now simply pick up the phone or jump on the Internet and get re-connected.
With the large percentage of Hispanic consumers in San Diego and throughout California, long distance calls will often travel around the world and over international boundaries. Obviously the cost of such calls plays a major factor for families in determining which provider they will use.
Odds are that most consumers in San Diego and in California receive their long distance phone service from one of the "Big Three" AT&T, WorldCom or Sprint. The simple reality is there are really no other choices. However, Pacific Bell is hoping to change all of that.
In 1997 Pacific Bell first filed its application for approval to enter the long distance market per the guidelines set forth in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Almost five years later Californians are still waiting to receive the savings and benefits that are already being seen in New York, Texas, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Kansas, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. In each of those states, where the regional Bell company has been granted approval to offer consumers long distance service, we have seen substantial competition in both the local and long distance markets, resulting in increased savings of millions of dollars to consumers. In New York alone, consumers are saving $700 million a year in lower phone bills.
California's 11 million Hispanic consumers will particularly benefit from increased competition in the long distance market. With the frequency and duration of international calls to Mexico and Central and South America, Hispanic consumers are disadvantaged by not having additional choices for long distance service - something that will be corrected when the PUC finally allows Pacific Bell to compete in offering long distance service. Until then, all of California's consumers are losing out on saving an estimated $881 million on local and long distance calls.
Furthermore, allowing Pacific Bell into the long distance market means more jobs and better services for those who need it most. Again, in a state with such a rich collection of cultures and immigrants from all over the globe, conducting business and keeping in touch with loved ones in other countries happen constantly and almost exclusively over the phone.
Pacific Bell has always prided itself in its ability to provide all Californians with the most advanced telecommunications products and services at competitive prices. With entry into the long distance market all consumers throughout the state will finally begin to see the rewards of true and robust competition - lower phone bills, more convenience and better service.