Washington to Qwest: Ease Up

Washington state regulators ordered Qwest Communications International Inc.
to assist local-telephony efforts by AT&T Broadband, the cable operator
that's usually the target of open-access solicitors.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission's 10-page decision
came as Colorado-based Qwest was considering whether to ask regulators in its
14-state territory to open AT&T Broadband's high-speed platform to competing
Internet-service providers.

The battle in Washington is different than a cable-access dispute, Paul Kagan
Associates Inc. telecommunications analyst John Mansell noted. Except when under
a legislative or court order, AT&T Broadband was never under any obligation
to unbundle its network, and it has successfully warded off such local efforts
so far.

But the 1996 Telecommunications Act requires Qwest -- parent company of the
former U S West -- to open up its telephony plant to competitors if it wants to
get into the lucrative long-distance business.

'The open-access debate is just that: a debate,' Mansell said. 'Federal
telecommunications law suggests that AT&T must be allowed on Qwest's

The WUTC said Qwest must furnish AT&T with access to inside wiring in
apartment complexes where the MSO wants to offer local phone service. The order
requires Qwest to 'promptly provide access to AT&T in any technically
feasible manner requested by AT&T.'

The two sides have 30 days to negotiate how much AT&T must pay Qwest for
the connections. Otherwise, WUTC sources said, the agency might set the