HARRISBURG, June 12, 2000 --
Three state senators who have participated in the legal proceedings
concerning local telephone competition today filed a response to Bell Atlantic
Pennsylvania Inc.'s attempts to
have them dismissed from the case.
In an answer submitted to the Pennsylvania
Public Utility Commission, Senators Vincent Fumo (D-Philadelphia), Roger Madigan
(R-Bradford) and Mary Jo White (R-Venango) argued that they have the right to
remain in the proceedings both as individual utility customers and in their
official capacity as members of the General Assembly.
They also asked for an expedited ruling so that any doubt over their
ability to continue advocation for true local telephone competition could be
"As a duly elected member of the Pennsylvania Senate, I have an absolute
right to present my views to any administrative agency on any matter of public
said Madigan. AI will not allow Bell Atlantic or any other company to silence me or to
prevent me from representing the interests of my district."
The issue of the senators' participation is
currently before Administrative Law Judge Wayne Weismandel, who has been
assigned to the case that will determine how to structurally separate
Bell Atlantic's retail operations from its wholesale division. Bell Atlantic
petitioned the PUC on June 1 to have the three senators removed from the
proceedings, as well as to disqualify their legal counsel, Christopher Craig.
The senators have been the leading proponents of requiring Bell to
divorce its wholesale operation -- the part of the company that maintains the telephone network --
from its retail arm --
the part that markets telephone services. They believe such separation is
essential as the state enters a new telecommunications era in which a wide
variety of consumer and business services will be offered by telecommunications
The PUC agreed with the senators and ordered the structural separation
of Bell last year. That order is under appeal by Bell, which holds a virtual
monopoly over local phone service to a large percentage of the state's
"We have been involved in this issue before the Commission for almost two
years. Only now, after we successfully championed the concept of structural
separation, does the company try to eliminate our right to argue our case before
AI view this as nothing more than an act of panicked desperation,"
Fumo said. AI continue to be astounded by the lengths this company will go to to
silence public criticism of its anti-competitive behavior.'
Fumo noted that while the company, in its petition, challenged the right
of public officials to participate in the case, it is using its customers'
money to defend its monopoly.
"It is particularly offensive to know that Bell has retained no less than
three politically connected law firms to attack the PUC's
order favoring structural separation and its implementation. A large amount of
ratepayer money has been spent by the company in its litigation strategy of
delay," Fumo said.
He believes an
investigation by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure
committee into such use of ratepayer money might be warranted.
their answer filed today, the senators said the most prominent deficiency of
Bell's argument is the fact that they have been deeply involved in the
telecommunications proceedings for two years, and that their participation
during that time has never been challenged until now. Arguments and expert
testimony that the senators presented to the commission formed the basis on
which significant portions of the PUC order have been crafted.
also responded to Bell's arguments challenging their rights to enter the cases
as individuals or as elected officials. Bell has claimed that as individual
ratepayers, the senators' interests should be represented only by the state
Office of Consumer Advocate. Documents filed today cite legal rulings in which
courts have held that holding elected office is 'no barrier' to personally
challenging a PUC order. They also cite statutes explicitly stating that nothing
contained in the powers of the Consumer Advocate "shall in any way limit
the right of any consumer to bring a proceeding before either the commission or
filing also cited flaws in Bell's arguments that the senators are prevented from
appearing before the PUC in their official capacity, noting several instances in
which Bell misinterpreted or misapplied court rulings on similar matters. It
further cited cases in which courts throughout the country have permitted
senators and representatives to participate in cases involving the manner in
which legislative mandates are
applied by executive agencies. (The state enacted a law to promote local
telephone competition in 1993.)
addition, it cited the Public Utility Code, which allows intervention in cases
when the participation of the petitioner may be in the public interest.
senators refuted the claim that Craig should not be allowed to represent them
is a public employee by pointing out that he is not representing them in a
private or personal matter in which they seek individual gain, but instead is
representing them on a matter of public policy as allowed by Senate rules.
believe that Bell Atlantic's
true objective is to raise as many procedural issues as possible in this
litigation now, so they can attack the Commission's final decision on appeal,"
have witnessed many strange things in my time as an elected official," Madigan said, Abut I cannot recall any state corporation acting as arrogantly and
recklessly as Bell Atlantic."
ability of members of the General Assembly to participate in such matters is
clearly in the public interest. Bell Atlantic should not underestimate our
commitment to represent the needs of our districts in this proceeding," White said.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo