BellSouth Asks For Deregulation

Wilmington, NC – BellSouth is asking the state Utilities Commission to deregulate its retail services.

The phone company says regulation is no longer necessary now that residents can choose from cell phone, internet and cable services.

The Public Utilities Commission says BellSouth is the largest phone service provider with 85% of the market. The Commission's executive Director for Public Staff, Robert Gruber, says a deregulated BellSouth can lower or raise rates at will.

"They could even refuse to serve some customers if they weren't regulated. The commission would have no authority to tell them to go serve new subdivisions that arose. There's all sorts of problems."

BellSouth spokesperson Cliff Metcaff disagrees, insisting even in the smallest towns customers have dozens of choices.

Now some of those providers are wireless, some of them are traditional landline carriers such as BellSouth, and some of them may be cable television companies offering cable telephony

BellSouth says it has been deregulated in other states. The phone company is waiting for its hearing, which the commission says could come as early as December.