Congress Reverses Bell Ruling

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WASHINGTON - Congress has reversed a decision that wouldhave forced the Federal Communications Commission to relax its oversight of large telcoaccounting practices.

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

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

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

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

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