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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