July 9, 1999
Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth Opposes Re-Regulation of Long Distance Market
Yesterday the Commission started down a path toward re-regulating the market for long distance telephone services. In opening an inquiry regarding flat-rated and minimum charges employed by long distance carriers, the Commission suggested that the decisions made by participants in a competitive market may warrant regulatory intervention. Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth dissented from yesterday's action, because he believes that the mere suggestion of re-regulating a competitive market is antithetical to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth stated, "The Commission's action demonstrates a refusal to accept the directive of Congress to refrain from intruding into competitive markets. Each of the five Commissioners has recognized publicly that the market for long distance services is substantially competitive. Still, the Commission refuses to cut its regulatory apron strings. American consumers, not federal bureaucrats, can best choose whether the pricing plans offered by certain long distance carriers suit their needs."
FCC's New-Found Concern for Consumers is Too Little, Too Late
The Commission maintains that its inquiry is designed to ensure that low- volume residential and single-line business consumers share in the benefits of universal service and access charge reform. This is the same Commission, however, that weeks ago raised the e-rate tax on these same customers' bills by $1 billion -- roughly $10 per household per year -- to pay for an excessive schools and libraries program. "Where was their concern for consumers then?," the Commissioner asked.
Now the Commission, playing the role of the over-reaching bureaucrat that has been repudiated by Congress and the American people, seeks to assuage the American consumer by injecting itself into the competitive long distance market. With yesterday's action, the camel's nose is under the tent. The Commission has set in motion its return to the role of long-distance rate regulator. Commissioner Furchtgott- Roth believes this action is "Too Little, Too Late, and Too Illegal."