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AT&T SEEKS RELIEF FROM RATE CEILING

AT&T SEEKS RELIEF FROM RATE CEILING

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AT&T Wednesday asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to remove the ceiling it imposes on AT&T's long-distance rates in the state, saying competition has eliminated the need for such regulation.

AT&T, the only long-distance company whose rates are subject to a ceiling set by the commission, said the ceiling should be ended as ``a matter of equity.'Since the ceiling first was set in 1984, ``a host of competitors have emerged and have made the full array of service options available to customers statewide,' AT&T said.

AT&T competitors say the company continues to warrant regulation because of its size and market share dominance.

The commission originally put a ceiling on rates for all long-distance companies, but gradually eliminated the caps on all but AT&T.

The commission kept the ceiling on AT&T because it was the only carrier that served every telephone exchange in the state, said John Garrison of the commission's Public Staff. The commission, he said, saw it as ``in essence, the carrier of last resort.'

The ceiling is applicable to calls within the state. Out-of-state rates are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T's competitors can change rates with 14 days' notice to customers and the commission.

AT&T said it has cut its long-distance rates by 25 percent since Jan. 1, 1984, sparking similar price cuts by competitors.

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