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BellSouth president calls for fair competition

By Staff
CALL FOR CHANGES – BellSouth's John McCullouch asks Rotary Club members Monday to raise their hands if they have cell phones or Internet access. McCulloch said changes to the regulations governing high-tech communication are needed to put the phone company on a level playing field with cable companies. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By William F. West / community editor
Aug. 20, 2002
The president of BellSouth Mississippi called on members of a Meridian civic group to support federal legislation giving the company a fair chance to compete for high-tech business.
The 54-year-old McCullouch, an attorney and a native of Louisville, said BellSouth has evolved from a telephone company to a broader communications firm with investments in wireless networks and high-speed Internet access.
BellSouth's problem, McCullouch said, is that cable television companies, satellite companies and other wireless services have different rules and regulations, with cable companies in particular a force to exclusively offer their own high-speed Net service.
BellSouth is required to lease its lines to any and all potential competitors.
McCullouch said BellSouth supports two congressional bills which would help remove "the obstacles facing our business."
A House bill would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission and state governments from regulating high-speed data services. A Senate bill would require the same FCC rules and regulations for all providers.
BellSouth, based in Atlanta, is one of a group of regional companies that evolved after the breakup of AT&T Co. in 1984.
A major handicap for BellSouth, as a regional service, is that it has been unable to offer local telephone service with long distance service meaning that the company cannot carry calls from Meridian to Biloxi and from Meridian to New York.
McCullouch told Rotarians that BellSouth began lobbying for changes and in October was endorsement by the Mississippi Public Service Commission to enter the long distance market.
He said that the FCC is reviewing BellSouth's application and is scheduled to make a decision Sept. 18.
He said that BellSouth is excited about entering the long distance market in Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina by the end of September.