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UNITED STATES v. AT&T

January 9, 1985

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN TELEPHONE AND TELEGRAPH COMPANY, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREENE

 HAROLD H. GREENE, District Judge.

 The issue before the Court is whether AT & T's database system should be made available to the Operating Companies on a temporary basis as a means of enabling other interexchange carriers to operate a sophisticated "800 Service" system.

 On July 8, 1983, this Court entered an Order approving the Plan of Reorganization submitted by AT & T and the Department of Justice *fn1" which implemented the decree in this case. *fn2" This complex, detailed Plan included a number of provisions concerning post-divestiture provision of so-called "in-WATS" or 800 Service, a unique interexchange service in which the receiver, rather than the originator of the call, subscribes to and is billed for the calls that are made. Insofar as here relevant, the Plan provides that not only AT & T but also the other interexchange carriers and the Operating Companies would be entitled to use the 800 prefix for in-WATS service; *fn3" that the Operating Companies' Central Staff Organization would administer the North American Numbering Plan, including the assignment of 800 numbers; *fn4" and that 800 directory assistance would be considered an interexchange, inter-LATA *fn5" service. *fn6" The Plan also mandates that AT & T would lease access to its Common Channel Interoffice Signalling (CCIS) system to the Operating Companies "for their provision of intraLATA . . . 800 Service . . . provided, however, that AT & T will have no obligation to allow [Operating Company] use of CCIS facilities under any arrangement that would allow access directly or indirectly to AT & T's CCIS network . . . by other interexchange carriers." *fn7"

 On December 20, 1983, the Department of Justice filed a motion *fn8" to amend the Plan of Reorganization and to obtain a temporary waiver of the decree's prohibition on the provision of interexchange service by the Operating Companies *fn9" with respect to 800 Service. The motion would in effect (1) grant to the Operating Companies access to portions of AT & T's CCIS database system for several years (during the period when they developed their own analogous 800 database facilities) for the purpose of sorting and routing the 800 Service calls of interexchange carriers other than AT & T; (2) permit the Operating Companies to provide the interexchange access services necessary for access to the CCIS system; and (3) require AT & T to give to the Operating Companies development assistance and access to the CCIS 800 database in order to facilitate the development by the Operating Companies of their own database systems.

 The Department's motion is premised upon the proposition that, given the current structure of the 800 Service system, the restriction imposed by the Plan of Reorganization on Operating Company and interexchange carrier access to AT & T's CCIS system is inconsistent with the decree itself *fn10" because allegedly (1) it conflicts with the requirement of section I(A)(1) of the decree that AT & T shall make available to the Operating Companies "sufficient facilities, personnel, systems, and rights to technical information to permit the [Operating Companies] to perform, independently of AT & T . . . exchange access functions;" *fn11" (2) it prevents the Operating Companies from fulfilling their obligation under section II(B) and Appendix B of the decree to provide equal access to all interexchange carriers with respect to 800 Service; *fn12" and (3) it will hinder the development of competition in the lucrative *fn13" 800 Service market, in contravention of the underlying principles of the decree. *fn14"

 I

 800 service, which was commercially introduced by AT & T in 1967, affords businesses and other organizations a means of providing potential customers or others with a ready, free method of contacting them to obtain goods and services.

  From 1967 until 1981, 800 Service calls were handled by designated interexchange switching systems called "Originating Screening Offices" and "Terminating Screening Offices". That system worked as follows. An Originating Screening Office encoded the first six digits in the 800 number (800-NXX) into a special three-digit or six-digit routing code that both directed the routing of the call across the interexchange network to the appropriate Terminating Screening Office and identified the service area from which the call originated. The final four digits in the 800 number (XXXX) identified the customer, the end office serving the customer, and the service areas to which the customer had subscribed. *fn15" The Terminating Screening Office used the special routing code and the last four digits in the 800 number to verify that the call had originated from within a subscribed service area, and to route the call to the local network for completion. Because all of the digits in 800 numbers had significance for screening and routing 800 Service calls, subscribers had no choice of 800 Service numbers, and they were required to change their 800 numbers if they changed their receiving location or required different geographic coverage.

 In 1981, AT & T implemented a new, more sophisticated 800 Service routing system that utilized its CCIS system. Under this new system, screening and routing information is not encoded into the 800 number itself. Instead, these functions are performed by Network Control Points, consisting of a computer and related software, that contain 800 Service databases. These Points receive 800 numbers transmitted by the Originating Screening Office, and they screen the numbers to make certain that the call is originating from a subscribed 800 Service area. If the answer is in the affirmative, the Network Control Point reads and translates the 800 Service number to a standard, ten digit "Plain Old Telephone Service" number contained in the database. That number is returned to the Originating Screening Office, which continues to route the 800 Service call across AT & T's interexchange network to the subscriber.

 AT & T's use of this new, more sophisticated CCIS database system has enabled it to offer 800 Service subscribers several innovative service options. Since the digits in the 800 number no longer have significance for screening and routing purposes, subscribers are able to obtain 800 Service numbers with verbal significance (e.g., 800-CAR-RENT) that promote product or service identification and presumably increase customer response. The Network Control Points can also be programmed to route 800 Service calls to different destinations at different times of day, or to alleviate call congestion at one subscriber receiving location. Finally, the system's data collection capabilities permit AT & T to offer its 800 Service customers statistical studies concerning the volume of calls received at different times of day from different geographic locations; this information can, of course, assist subscribers in planning their 800 Service operations.

 Since both the Operating Companies and the other interexchange carriers at present have neither database 800 number translation systems of their own nor access to AT & T's CCIS database system for interexchange 800 service, these carriers must rely on a modified version of the pre-1981 NXX system. *fn16" It is this disadvantage which has prompted the Department to file its motion.

 II

 Those who support the Department of Justice motion contend that, unless the Operating Companies are enabled to make available to the interexchange carriers AT & T's CCIS database, *fn17" the decree's equal access requirements *fn18" will be violated in that the Operating Companies will be able to offer the carriers only an inadequate, inferior 800 Service system that will not permit them to ...


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