A multi-state petition for Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky and South Carolina was approved four to zero Wednesday by the Federal Communications Commission Board of Commissioners.
Before being approved by the federal agency, the company had to prove to each state that it allows other competitors to use its network of telephone poles, switching stations and lines.
In May, BellSouth got FCC approval to offer long distance in Georgia and Louisiana. Critics of BellSouth, such as AT&T, have said that the prices BellSouth charges to its competitors are too high for them to enter local phone service. But BellSouth Chairman and CEO Duane Ackerman said that the FCC's unanimous approval of the plan shows that it has sufficiently opened those markets.
Ackerman said that BellSouth's long distance rates would be competitive with other companies, although he couldn't give exact prices.
He said the five additional states represent a potential market of about $4 billion.