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July 1, 2003

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CLEC Battle Moves from Balance Sheet to FCC

Posted: 7/2003

CLEC Battle Moves from Balance Sheet to FCC

By Josh Long

The
battle the competitive industry faces has
shifted from the balance sheet to state capitols, public utility commissions and
the 8th floor of the Federal Communications Commission.

At the ASCENT 2003 Spring Conference and
Networking Center in mid-May, staff members called upon members to continue the
fight before lawmakers and regulators. The industry is under attack. Every
company needs to protect its legal right to serve customers, says Andrew Isar,
who lobbies on behalf of ASCENT members. We have witnessed the successes when
smaller companies get involved and we need to see more of that.

In lieu of the dramatic changes in the
competitive industry over the last three years, one of the fundamental roles of
ASCENT and its conventions remains constant: unite various companies to
apprise them of the latest technological, regulatory and legislative
developments and rally support for a cohesive voice before the halls of
Congress, state legislatures and the FCC.

J. Edward Pearce, vice president of alternate
channels with LDMI Telecommunications, said one pervasive thought on attendees
minds is the volatile regulatory environment.

Case in point: Pearce mentioned a new law in
Illinois. The bill, which moved swiftly through the Illinois legislature,
requires the state regulator to recalculate the wholesale phone rates SBC
Communications Inc. can charge rivals. (Editors Note: Chief Judge Charles
Kocoras of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois,
Chicago, blocked the measure from going into effect June 9.)

Another
hot topic was the potential merger of ASCENT with rival and sometimes partner
organization, the Competitive Telecommunications Assocation (CompTel). During
the show, the combination was little more than buzz as officials of both groups
declined to comment on the record about talks between them at the conference.
Later, in a joint statement, the associations confirmed their exploratory
discussions.

Committees have been formed by both organizations
to perform due diligence and make recommendations to their respective boards.
Should the boards decide to move forward, the members of both associations will
be asked to vote on a merger proposal, the statement read.

Why join forces, and why do it now? Synergy is
the simple answer, said H. Russell Frisby Jr., president of CompTel. The
merger of CompTel and ASCENT would maximize the strengths of both organizations,
benefiting the entire membership base by consolidating overall costs and
allowing us to channel our funds into developing stronger programs, products and
services to benefit the entire competitive telecommunications industry.

Combining
our talents under a single banner would be an enormously positive step and a
landmark event for the competitive carrier community, added Walt Blackwell,
president of ASCENT. We complement each other so well. CompTel, for example,
has one of the most effective lobbying programs of any telecom association in
Washington. And ASCENT business solutions, education programs and trade shows
are among the best in the industry.

Meantime, it was business as usual on the trade
show floor as buyers and sellers converged. David Gusky, executive vice
president of ASCENT, says the association expected between 1,300 and 1,500
attendees. There were 85 exhibitors.

Some attendees say the reason for attending the
convention is the same as always: to network, stay informed on the latest
developments and enter business relationships.

Edward F. Kilb, vice president of operations and
secretary with CLEC Data Net Systems, says there is still a pretty good mix
of companies supporting the show. Kilb, who was attending the show as a
buyer, found many of the companys vendors by walking the show floor in recent
years. He says the change in the shows exhibitors, from giants like AT&T
Corp. and WorldCom Inc. to smaller carriers, has been helpful to Data Net
Systems because exhibitors are more willing to enter business arrangements with
a company his size.

So far, he says, we have found it was
worth our while to spend our money attending ASCENT.

Khali Henderson contributed to this article.

ASCENT Names New Officers

The Association of Communications Enterprises
(ASCENT) elected a new slate of officers during its spring conference. The
association also filled two vacancies on its board of directors as a result of
the resignations of its chairman Gordon Martin, formerly executive vice
president of wholesale for Qwest Communications International Inc., and Shirish
Lal of Ionex Telecom, which was acquired by Birch Telecom this spring.

Ron Harden, executive vice president of network
services for Grande Communications, moves into the position of chairman after
having served as its vice chairman. The new ASCENT vice chair is Gail Jones,
vice president and general manager of ComoreTel. Completing the slate of
officers is the new secretary/treasurer, Joseph Gregori, CEO of InfoHighway
Communications Corporation. Gregori also serves as the Regional Advisory Council
liaison to the board.

Filling the remaining two vacancies on the board
are Joseph Leuci and Dave Thomas. Leuci is the senior vice president of sales
and marketing for FiberNet Telecom Group Inc. Thomas is director of carrier
relations for MCI.

Other board members include William Capraro Jr.,
CIMCO Communications Inc.; Ron Contrado, Homisco/Voicenet; Thomas M. Coughlin,
Alliance Group Services; Robert Hale Sr., Granite Communications; J. Sherman
Henderson, Lightyear; and Judy Reed Smith, Atlantic- ACM. Reed Smith serves as
the Supplier Advisory Council liaison to the board.

ATLANTIC-ACM Honors Wholesale Excellence

Research firm ATLANTIC-ACM today presented awards
for wholesale excellence in the U.S. and global carrier categories at the ASCENT
conferences opening ceremony.

CEO Dr. Judy Reed Smith and Taher Bouzayen,
ATLANTIC-ACM vice president and analyst covering the long-distance wholesale
sector made the presentations, which were based on the 2003 edition of
ATLANTIC-ACMs Long Distance Wholesale Carrier Report Card and The Global
Wholesale Report Card. The report, now in its fifth edition, was derived from
nearly 600 rankings of wholesale carriers performance by their resale
customers.

Award winners included:

  • Billing: WilTel Communications LLC took top U.S. Carrier honors for billing excellence and iBasis Inc. took top global carrier honors.

  • Customer Service: WilTel and iBasis also took top honors for customer service superiority among U.S. and global carriers, respectively.

  • Network: The award for network quality and availability was delivered to AT&T Corp. WilTel earned the U.S. network award.

  • Pricing: Global Crossing Ltd. took top honors in the U.S. Carrier Pricing appeal category. ITXC was ranked best among global carriers.

  • Products: AT&T won both the U.S. and global carrier for product excellence.

  • Provisioning: Qwest Communications International Inc. ranked highest for provisioning speed, interface/support systems and SLAs among U.S. carriers. iBasis topped global carrier rankings.

 

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