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By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2002-07-30 Print this article Print

: FCC Says WorldCom Services Wont Go Dark"> Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., said that he wanted to try to include expanded FCC authority in legislation passed this summer. Powell also asked the Senate to approve legislation, which the House already passed, increasing fines against carriers that violate FCC regulations. Among several steps Powell outlined as necessary for the telecommunications industry to recover from its economic slump was a "prudent industry restructuring." Charging that the long haul market is "absolutely glutted with excess capacity," and that long distance and wireless companies will face continued pressure to restructure or exit the market, Powell said such restructuring would not be contrary to consumer interests. Having taken heat from earlier reported statements that he does not necessarily oppose a merger between WorldCom and a Baby Bell, he told senators that "some mergers clearly present a severe threat to competition" and that each case would have to be reviewed independently.
Several committee members warned the FCC chairman against facilitating a restricting pool of service providers that could lead to less competition, and they cautioned him not to pursue some pending deregulatory proposals, including an easing of accounting requirements.
"The market system begs for effective regulation and oversight," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., "We need effective, aggressive regulation. . . . Fewer choices by definition almost always mean less competition." Some lawmakers were more explicit in their warnings against the Baby Bells in this difficult telecommunications climate. Recalling the many lawsuits the Bells have brought against the FCC since the enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Hollings told Powell that he must watch the local carriers more closely. "Dont let the demise of competition be used to extend the monopolies. [The Bells] have got every gimmick in the book to extend their monopolies," Hollings said, alluding to recent petitions from Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. to demand upfront payments or enhanced security deposits from bankrupt carriers like WorldCom. Powell responded with a smile. "Im not so easily rolled over," he said. "Ill just leave it at that." The committee today also grilled WorldComs John Sidgmore, as well as John Legere, CEO of Global Crossing Ltd. and Afshin Mohebbi, president and chief operating officer of Qwest Communications International. The senators waxed particularly stridently about the wealth that top executives accrued through stock options, bonuses and stock options, while so many rank-and-file employees lost their savings and jobs. For the most part, the telecom executives declined to respond directly to the senators questions, citing ongoing investigations of alleged wrong-doing. However, when questioned whether executives stock options should be accounted for as an expense, Sidgmore said he believed they should be. Related Stories:
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