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AT&T’S CHAIRMAN RESPONDS TO TALK

BOSTON-AT&T Corp. Chairman Robert Allen responded to rumors of a possible merger of SBC Communications Corp. and AT&T by saying the company would never consider a regional operating company merger that did not advance competition.

“We have a firm policy of not commenting on rumors of such deals,” Allen said in a prepared statement. “But I want to set the record straight on our history, our strategy and our position on some critical public policy issues.”

Allen said AT&T is prepared to enter the local service market alone, but the company remains open to opportunities that will speed its penetration of local markets.

Under the right conditions, the combination of long-distance carriers and regional Bell operating companies need not be unthinkable, said Allen. “Imagine how much faster competition would develop if the local Bell companies truly opened up their own markets to full and fair competition and joined the rest of us in attacking local markets beyond their own territories.”

Allen said the company’s experience with trying to enter six local phone markets has taught it that, “the regional Bell operating companies-all the RBOCs-have a half-baked, minimalist view of just what an open market is. That would have to change.”

Allen noted that any partnership would have to make strategic and financial sense for AT&T’s shareowners, customers and employees.

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