Business

GTE/Bell Atlantic merger approved

OLYMPIA _ On Thursday, Dec. 16, state regulators approved a

merger between two telecommunications giants, GTE Corp. and Bell

Atlantic Corp. The decision includes a settlement on GTE's rates that will

result in lower phone bills for most of its 870,000 customers in Washington.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission

(WUTC) accepted the settlement proposed by GTE/Bell Atlantic, commission

staff and the public counsel section of the state attorney general's office.

The settlement addressed the merger as well as other issues, including

GTE's earnings. Under the terms of the commission's order, GTE will

lower its rates by a net $30 million a year by July 1, 2001.

According to the WUTC, GTE business customers will notice the

biggest reductions in their bills but many residential customers,

particularly those paying surcharges for local

calling areas, will also see a reduction. Some rural customers, paying the

lowest rates, will see slight increases in their local rates but all

customers should eventually realize a reduction in their long-distance rates.

GTE provides local and long-distance service to 620,000

residential and 250,000 business customers in Washington. Bell Atlantic is a

long-distance provider in Washington but does not offer local service in

this state. The merger is still pending approval from the Federal

Communications Commission.

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