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US WEST is poised for long distance

US WEST is poised to enter the long distance business in 35 states outside its 14-state territory through a new division.

US WEST Long Distance has regulatory approval to offer long distance service in every state but Alaska outside the territory served by sister company US WEST Communications Inc. Approval is pending in Alaska.Kathy Stephens, vice president of business planning and customer service for US WEST Long Distance, said the company hasn't targeted a specific state or date to launch its service, though it plans to move "quickly." It will resell service on other companies' lines - just as competitors are attempting to do within the US WEST territory.

The long distance division is based in Denver and has 100 employees. It is part of the US WEST Communications Group, as is US WEST Communications Inc., the entity that provides local telephone service in Utah and 13 other Western states. The long distance division is funded by US WEST Inc., the parent company of US WEST operations, and US WEST Communications Group, Stephens said.

Other regional Bell operating companies are also pursuing offering long-distance service outside their regions. US WEST acknowledges it has been aggressive in setting up long-distance service around the country.

"We certainly have done that to get the positioning that we could launch anywhere, anytime," Stephens said.

Experience gained in offering long distance service elsewhere will no doubt help US WEST when it tackles the service within its home states, she said.

"There is a curve of operations we get over pretty quickly," Stephens said. It is also gaining long distance experience with a calling card offered to customers within its territory that can be used to make local and long distance calls.

US WEST will likely start filing applications to provide long distance service in its 14-state territory within six months. Judy Brun-sting, directory of long distance regulatory affairs, said US WEST has started that process in Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington. Provided its applications are approved by the Federal Communications Commission, it could begin offering the service by mid- to late-1998.

But gaining FCC approval has proven an obstacle for other Bell companies.

The FCC has rejected applications from both Ameritech and Bell-South to become long distance service providers in states each serves. Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Bell companies must prove they've opened local markets to competition before they can enter the long distance business in their own territories.