ACS fights competition order

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska Communications Services is asking state and federal courts to block an order to share local telephone markets in Juneau.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska is scheduled to issue a final interconnection order by Oct. 5 that would force ACS to sell access to its local network in Juneau to General Communications Inc.

ACS, which provides local service in Juneau, Fairbanks and North Pole, said the rates in that order are unfairly low, essentially allowing GCI to confiscate it's property.

GCI, which plans to begin providing local service in Juneau next year, responds that ACS is against competition and is trying to recoup some of its past excess spending.

ACS argues that it's objecting to the terms of competition, not competition itself.

''It's inevitable you're going to have competition,'' said Mary Ann Pease, vice president of ACS in Anchorage. ''If they want to use the rates we filed over a year ago, competition could start at any time.''

But an arbitrator ruled in GCI's favor on the rates, and the Regulatory Commission upheld that ruling in August.

Now, ACS has filed suit both at the state and federal level. In federal court, the company argues that the regulatory commission violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Constitution.

''It's kind of a desperation move on their part -- and an outrageous one,'' said Dana Tindall, senior vice president of legal and regulatory affairs for GCI in Anchorage.

The main issue is how much GCI must pay for access to the ACS system rather than building its own network from scratch.

Pease said the commission is incorrectly using national averages to determine suitable costs, overlooking a more rural service area than the Lower 48, extreme weather, and high material and labor costs.

Tindall said ACS is asking for more than it would cost GCI to build its own system with modern, more efficient equipment.

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