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Like houseguests who've come to stay awhile, CLECs want access to all the amenities of home.
FOR YEARS AND YEARS, TELEPHONE COMPANIES QUIETLY MINDED THEIR OWN BUSINESS WHEN IT CAME TO MANAGING THEIR NETWORKS AND CUSTOMERS. THEY BUILT THEIR OWN SYSTEMS FOR ORDERING, PROVISIONING, BILLING, NETWORK SURVEILLANCE AND MAINTENANCE, AND DIDN'T PUT MUCH THOUGHT INTO WHETHER THOSE OPERATIONS SUPPORT SYSTEMS (OSSS) COULD INTERCONNECT WITH ANOTHER CARRIER'S, BECAUSE THEY SIMPLY DIDN'T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT SUCH THINGS.
But like an unwelcome mother-in-law who shows up at the doorstep with her suitcases in hand for an extended visit, competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) are moving into the market and demanding access to the incumbent local exchange carriers' (ILECs') OSSs. The powers-that-be in Washington have agreed with the CLECs' demands. According to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, incumbent LECs must provide interconnection and access to network elements - including OSSs - to any requesting telecommunications carrier, at any "technically feasible" point.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) narrowed down those requirements even more in August 1996, directing ILECs to provide competitors with non-discriminatory access to their OSSs in five areas: pre-ordering, ordering, provisioning, maintenance and repair and billing. But then, the federal regulators left in their wake a maelstrom of differing opinions on precisely what it is that competitors are entitled to access. While everyone seems to agree that competitors have every right to access ILEC loops, ports and switches, when it comes to potentially proprietary OSSs, it's an entirely different story.
WHAT'S THE TROUBLE?
Despite having blown en masse a January deadline for opening their OSSs to competitors, the regional Bell operating companies (RBOCs) maintain that they are well on their way to fulfilling their end of the bargain.
BellSouth, for example, has several OSS interfaces allowing CLECs to do ordering, provisioning and billing. The company's Local Exchange …