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Grass Roots

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was intended to provide consumers with more choices in local phone service, better quality, and access to high-speed Internet service and lower phone bills. The 1996 Act has accomplished some of its goals but failed in one area. The remaining Baby Bells who emerged after the break-up of AT&T in 1984, Verizon, SBC, Qwest and BellSouth, typically devise schemes to prevent local competitors from gaining a foothold in local markets.

When we started working for Voices for Choices, a coalition committed to keeping the promise of the Telecom Act by demanding its full enforcement, the Telecom Act was under attack in Congress and at the FCC. A bill had already passed in the House and another was pending in the Senate and the FCC, under Michael Powell, was actively considering several regulatory changes that would favor the Bells, overturn the Telecom Act, and reduce competition and ultimately increase prices.

Voices for Choices wanted to demonstrate to key Senators the continued need for supporting telecom competition – because the Baby Bells still operate as government-sanctioned monopolies in their local service area.

The challenges

  • Verizon, SBC, Qwest and BellSouth devote substantial resources on at a federal and state level, and advertise heavily in local papers.

The opportunity

  • Voices for Choices knew there were lots of people and businesses who relied on non-Bells (Verizon, SBC, Qwest and BellSouth) for their service, particularly in rural areas basically abandoned by the Bells.
  • Voices for Choices knew that Senators and their staffs often pay attention to the Op-Ed pages of their local papers.

The activity

  • Seek out people in different communities to take a public stand on the issue of telecom competition.
  • Research, write and edit articles to appear in newspapers Op-Ed pages.

The results

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