Comcast, Inc., the nation's fourth largest cable company, demonstrated an alternative local telephone system in Philadelphia on September 10th. While there has been a great deal of pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to stimulate competition by requiring local telephone companies to make their lines available to competitors for use in alternative networks, The Comcast demonstration showed that access to these lines may not even be necessary. Comcast bypassed the local telephone company to make local, national, and international calls by configuring a network consisting of its own cable circuits, a cellular service, a long distance carrier, and a satellite company.
Comcast is one of a number of companies experimenting with adapting cable television lines to carry telephone conversations. The seven regional telephone companies have said that they welcome competition, but only if they are given greater flexibility on rate increases and permission to own and program cable TV systems. They also want their competitors to bear the same responsibility for providing universal service to customers, rather than limiting their service to selected institutional customers.
It may take several years, but there appears to be a movement toward competition in local telephone service just as there was toward competition in long distance service a few years ago.