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Regulators vote to block BellSouth

Florida telephone regulators voted Monday to keep BellSouth Corp. out of the long-distance phone business in the state, saying the company hasn't fulfilled the market-opening requirements of last year's national telecommunications law.

Under the law, a regional Bell can offer customers in its state long-distance service only once it faces competition for both residential and business customers. It also must prove to the Federal Communications Commission that it has fulfilled a 14-point checklist that ensures it has taken steps to open its market to potential competitors.

The Public Service Commission accepted its staff's recommendation and said BellSouth, a regional Bell phone company serving nine states in the Southeast, hadn't met the law's requirements. The FCC will make the final determination and will take into consideration the state regulatory body's and the Justice Department's recommendations.

"We commend the Florida PSC for standing up to BellSouth's political pressure," said Terry Monroe of the Competitive Telecommunications Association, which represents companies seeking to enter the local phone market.

BellSouth had no comment.