World Com chief fires at competition, legislators

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) WorldCom Chief Executive Officer Bernie Ebbers claims the monopolies of Qwest and the Baby Bells are being protected at the expense of large long-distance companies.

Ebbers, at the annual retreat of the Governor's Commission on Science and Technology, also warned Monday that a state bill that would limit telemarketers would influence WorldCom's opinion of Colorado. The company has about 7,700 employees in the state.

Ebbers said the government has not pressed the Baby Bells, including the former U S West, which was taken over by Qwest last June, to provide timely, fairly-priced access to long-distance services such as WorldCom, AT&T, Sprint and others.

The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandates that the Baby Bells allow competitors access to their local networks before they can offer long-distance services within their home territories.

''There is no concern out there that we're headed toward a train wreck, where there will be a new monopolization of local and long-distance markets with the Bell companies as victors,'' Ebbers said.

Qwest spokesman Michael Tarpey objected later.

''First of all, there is competition in the Colorado market,'' Tarpey said. ''Qwest is working with anybody who wants to work with us. I think Ebbers' comments lacked facts about the competition that's in place.''

Ebbers, whose company is based in Clinton, Miss., also took aim at the Colorado Legislature, which is reviewing a bill to establish a list of people who do not want to receive telemarketing calls.

''I think it's entirely inappropriate to limit our ability to conduct free speech and to limit our ability to conduct our business the way it needs to be conducted,'' Ebbers told about 200 business leaders, legislators and educators.

''There are all kinds of methods for people not to listen to telemarketing calls if they so choose without legislating it,'' he said. ''Let me also send a word of caution to you ... and that is that people tend to do business where they're allowed to do business, not where they're not allowed to do it.''

He did not directly answer questions if WorldCom would be merging or acquiring other companies. Recent reports have speculated that Ebbers, following the failure of WorldCom's proposed acquisition of Sprint, has put WorldCom up for sale.

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