Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. have filed a second merger petition with state regulators, promising a longer rate freeze, smaller phone bills for some customers and new services for others.
The State Corporation Commission rejected the original merger application in March after concluding that the companies had failed to show the deal would not hurt Virginia consumers.
The new petition, filed Friday, promises to extend the rate limit on Bell Atlantic's basic service through 2003. While the extension is three years more than the current cap, it falls short of the SCC staff's recommendation to freeze rates until 2009 to lessen the "anti-competitive" effects of a merger.
The new petition also says GTE would cut rates for southwest Virginia customers and make services such as caller ID, automatic return call and automatic busy redial available to all of its customers within two years of the merger.
Typical residential customers in the region would see their bills drop $3 a month, and single-line business customers would see a decline of $6 to $11, said Jim Diz, president of GTE South. The petition also promises an investment of $1.75 billion in Virginia over the next three years for "telecommunications infrastructure."
The companies reiterated their earlier promise to significantly expand local calling areas, announcing 150 new toll-free calling paths from one exchange to another that customers now pay for.
The SCC has six months to act on the application.
GTE and Bell Atlantic announced plans to merge last July. The combined company would be worth $53 billion and control 63 million access lines in 39 states. For the merger to go through, it has to win not only approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, but also from states where the companies do business.