Witnesses Say FCC Should Not Control Phone Industry / before Congress

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - Control of the telephone industry should not be given back to the Federal Communications Commission from a federal judge, as envisioned in proposed legislation, several witnesses told Congress Tuesday.

""If FCC regulation was workable, we probably never would have had the divestiture in the first place,'' said George Vasilakos, president of the Allnet long-distance service.

The Bell System was broken up on Jan. 1, 1984, to settle an antitrust case against the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. A similar settlement governs the relationship between GTE Corp.'s local companies and the Sprint long-distance service.

Legislation to move enforcement of the settlements from U.S. District Judge Harold Greene to the FCC has been proposed by Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole of Kansas.

The legislation is generally opposed by competitors of Bell System companies.

Among those voicing support of the bill before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Tuesday was Zane E. Barnes, chairman and chief executive officer of St. Louis-based Southwestern Bell Corp.

The legislation would ""help untangle the emerging regulatory gridlock, which is stalling creativity and stifling innovation in this industry,'' Barnes said.

Southwestern Bell, Barnes said, should be allowed to decide whether to enter long-distance competition, delivery of information services and manufacturing.

The company is presently prohibited from entering those business by the divestiture agreement that split up the Bell System.

Judge Greene has refused to allow the seven regional Bell telephone companies created by the breakup to offer long-distance service, sell equipment in the United States or provide sophisticated information services such as electronic message-taking. …