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 THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Dec. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- GTE California today commended the state Public Utilities Commission for its bold and aggressive move to increase competition and spur advanced telecommunications deployments in California.
 On Wednesday, the California PUC proposed opening all telecommunications markets over the next three years to any firm that meets basic quality and service standards. The goal is to speed service and product innovations to benefit California consumers and the state's economy.
 "While we are still studying the full text of the proposal, it appears the PUC has taken another aggressive step to ensure that California has a state-of-the-art telecommunications network that provides a tremendous array of services to residential and business consumers," said Larry Sparrow, president of GTE West Area, which includes GTE California.
 "A critical point is that this proposal appears to blend incentives to accelerate the information highway GTE is building here with safeguards to protect consumers. Of course, we are closely studying the full details of the proposal at this time."
 Sparrow also noted that the PUC has appropriately responded to California governor Pete Wilson's call for the rapid implementation of an information superhighway.
 GTE found four key points of the proposal encouraging:
 -- It appears the PUC intends to introduce full competition in a manner that brings regulatory consistency. In other words, the PUC apparently is committed to a level playing field for all competitors.
 -- The proposal would stimulate a competitive arena that is market- driven. GTE has long advocated that market forces -- rather than regulatory or legal forces -- will bring a wider variety of services to consumers at a faster pace.
 -- The PUC's plan to give all customers access to digital networks aligns with GTE's vision for a competitive telecommunications industry. GTE California strongly believes that deployment of appropriate broadband technology within all its communities will ensure equal access and prevent the creation of a society divided between the "information rich" and the "information poor."
 -- The proposal recognizes that proper incentives are required to hasten the full implementation of an information highway. Companies must have the freedom to compete in order to provide the necessary investment capital.
 "We believe it is appropriate to discuss the definition of universal service and to create a broad-based method to fund it, so that all competitors bear an equal responsibility to this social obligation," Sparrow said. "The universal service objective in the Communications Act of 1934 has resulted in reliable telephone service for almost every American. As the information age dawns, it is entirely appropriate to redifine this concept. The California PUC has taken a major step in this direction."
 GTE Already Building Information Highway in California
 In the late 1980s and early 1990s, GTE California invested about $5 billion to upgrade and expand its telecommunications network, becoming the state's first and only major telephone company to deploy a 100 percent electronic network, and more than 90 percent of the company's network already is digital. The company continues to invest almost a half-billion dollars annually in California's telecommunications infrastructure.
 GTE already offers advanced switched data services to the majority of its customers and has aggressive plans to introduce even more advanced services in the near future.
 The company will have Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) capabilities fully deployed throughout its California territories by the first quarter of 1997. ISDN lets customers use existing access lines to support sophisticated voice, data, and video applications. ISDN is valuable to both business and residential customers and is a major component of increasing the viability of telecommuting.
 Frame Relay Service, which provides faster and more accurate packet- switching than traditional technologies, will be fully deployed in California by 1995. And Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) will be fully deployed in this state by 1996, giving customers voice, high-speed data, and video services whenever needed.
 Earlier this year, GTE announced it will build at least 16 advanced fiber optic rings in California during the next two years (part of a broader nationwide project to build at least 50 rings in key U.S. markets). These SONET rings will link 42 communities in greater Los Angeles using the world's fastest digital transmission system. The first SONET ring already is in service in the Ontario (Calif.) Airport area, making GTE the first independent local phone company -- and the first ever in California -- to actually begin construction of backbone components to the information superhighway.
 "ISDN Frame Relay and ATM are powerful tools that make businesses more competitive and make California a much more attractive place to do business," Sparrow said. "GTE is well on the road to making the information superhighway, and all its economic and consumer benefits, a dream come true in California."
 Since the late 1980s, GTE has conducted technology and marketing tests of voice, data, and video services to determine what technologies best meet the needs and expectations of all customers. Some of the tests have been on an interactive basis using a remote control, television, and phone line.
 For the past three years in California, GTE has tested video on demand, video phone calling, video information services, and distance learning trials. Educational testing has been conducted at the elementary and college levels. Consumer response has been overwhelmingly positive.
 "Even without the PUC's proposal for competition, GTE plans to extend high-capacity fiber optics to every neighborhood we serve," Sparrow said. "Given regulatory freedom, we could accelerate our plans to provide advanced capabilities to our customers."
 GTE California, based in Thousand Oaks, provides local and regional long-distance service and data communications to 3.1 million customers in 330 communities. The majority for the company's service territory is in Southern California, including major portions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. GTE also serves significant areas of Northern California, including Los Gatos and Novato.
 The parent company, GTE Corp., is the fourth-largest publicly owned telecommunications company in the world.
 -0- 12/13/93
 /CONTACT: Daniel Smith of GTE California, 800-227-5556 (24-hour newsline) or 805-372-6082 (out of state)/

CO: GTE California; The Public Utilities Commission ST: California IN: TLS SU:

NY-LS -- LA011 -- 3091 12/13/93 10:31 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Dec 13, 1993

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