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FCC Pricing Requirement Is Rejected

January 23, 1998|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has again set back federal regulators' attempts to open up the $100-billion local telephone business to competition.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told the Federal Communications Commission it cannot require local Bell telephone companies to open their networks to competitors at certain prices as a prerequisite for entering the long-distance field.

The court on Thursday ordered the FCC to abide by a previous ruling issued in July by the same court, which is in St. Louis.

That earlier ruling said the FCC lacks the authority to set prices for would-be rivals to lease pieces of existing local phone networks or buy local service and resell it to customers. Only the states can do that, the court said.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce today whether it will review the appeal panel's July decision.

Thursday's 15-page order responded to suits filed against the FCC by the National Assn. of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, which represents state telephone regulators, and all five regional Bell phone companies.

"I am disappointed that two years after the Telecommunications Act, yet another court decision will delay the benefits of competition for the American public," said FCC Chairman Bill Kennard.

An FCC spokeswoman said the commission has not decided whether to appeal.

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