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Byline: Joseph Picard
Sep. 1--Is your local monthly telephone rate about to double?
According to the state's ratepayer advocate and Democratic state lawmakers, the answer is yes, if Bell Atlantic has its way.
Bell Atlantic, on the other hand, says that it's new proposal will actually mean a discount, not an increase, for most customers.
Bell Atlantic, now known as Verizon Communications, has asked the state Board of Public Utilities to declare New Jersey's local telephone market competitive and deregulate local phone service. Verizon's rationale is that local phone business is no longer a monopoly and, therefore, should no longer be regulated. Rather, competition between local phone service providers, and not some state agency, should determine the cost to consumers.
"Competition regulates itself," said Soraya Rodriguez, spokeswoman for Verizon.
But opponents of Verizon's idea of deregulation are quick to point out that true competition, which is supposed to benefit consumers with lower prices, will not take place if the BPU grants Verizon's request.
"Lower rates for consumers are what we seek," said …