Consumer Groups Press FCC on AT & T

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Washington-Consumer and public-interest groups are urging the Federal Communications Commission to use its broad public-interest authority to limit AT & T Corp.'s cable-subscriber total.

The Consumers Union and the Media Access Project said in a May 10 letter to the FCC that the Supreme Court and lower courts have endorsed the view that the commission may use the public-interest standard to promote cable competition.

The FCC is considering relying on the public-interest standard to limit AT & T to 30 percent of pay TV subscribers. A 1992 law authorizing the 30 percent cap was struck down as unconstitutional, and it is on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

They also said AT & T should be given six months to comply with the FCC's decision. The agency's Cable Services Bureau recommends a one-year period.

Meanwhile, House and Senate lawmakers sent a letter May 10 to FCC chairman William Kennard, asking him to give AT & T "at least 12 months to comply with the new ownership rules without additional regulatory constraints."

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