Blaming a sluggish economy and an onerous regulatory environment,



set plans Tuesday to fire an additional 5,000 workers this quarter.

The nation's No. 2 local phone company has already cut 10,000 jobs in the past two quarters and has targeted an additional 4,000 by the end of the year. SBC has about 190,000 employees in 13 states.

The move comes just a day after the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that favors SBC rivals and the lower, more competitive lease prices they would pay the dominant local phone companies for use of their networks.

It took some five years for the battle to open local phone competition -- spawned by the 1996 Telecommunications Act -- to reach the nation's highest court. And with a 7-1 decision, the ruling came down Monday against SBC and the other regional Bells, which had been seeking higher lease payments from competing phone companies to cover the cost of their network investments.

In announcing the cuts, SBC attempted to paint itself as a victim of government policy and made it clear that the court's action had a direct correlation to job cuts.

"Policymakers could provide this industry and the U.S. economy with a boost by creating rules which provide an incentive for companies to invest and create jobs," said SBC President William Daley in a written statement. "As the rules stand now, SBC is discouraged from investing in new infrastructure or new jobs. These rules are not economically rational and they are uncertain at best."

Investors and industry observers point out that scores of jobs among would-be SBC rivals have fallen by the wayside as upstarts tried to crack the local phone market over the past five years. Meanwhile, due to successful lobbying efforts and prolonged legal battles, the regional Bells have managed to hold on to far more of their franchises than experts originally expected.

SBC shares were up nearly 3% Tuesday.