The stakes are highest for AT&T. Unlike its long-distance competitors who serve mainly businesses, AT&T makes most of its money from residential customers -- the very people who might prefer the old days of one-stop shopping for local and long distance phone service. AT&T's chief challenger is SBC Communications, a consortium of several smaller Baby Bells that provides local service throughout much of the southwest. SBC wants to expand into the California residential long distance market, a telecom gold mine where existing carriers rake in half their total profits.
Although local carriers say they could be ready to go long in as little as 30-40 days, the billions at stake mean that a final ruling will probably be tied up in court for some time. But it might not be too early for Candice Bergen to think about switching to SBC.