Congress Reverses Bell Ruling


WASHINGTON - Congress has reversed a decision that would
have forced the Federal Communications Commission to relax its oversight of large telco
accounting practices.

The decision by a House-Senate panel Oct. 20 was a victory
for cable operators, local phone competitors and long-distance companies, all of which
feared that anti-competitive results would flow from lax accounting rules. FCC chairman
William Kennard also opposed the change.

Cable operators, for example, believed that the change
would have led to higher pole-attachment fees, or would have at least made it more costly
to prove that fees were unreasonable.

The United States Telecom Association pushed for the
change, claiming the FCC's separate accounting rules and policies were duplicative and
costly. But opponents managed to overcome the USTA with a vigorous lobbying effort.

The final outcome is limbo because President Clinton vetoed
the money bill last week. Clinton complained that Congress failed both to provide the FCC
with adequate funding and to include language that would allow the agency to automatically
reclaim spectrum licenses held by bankrupt licensees. MCN