Powell takes hits for WorldCom speculation

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Some lawmakers have been beating up on Federal Communications Commission
Chairman Michael Powell since he told the Wall St. Journal that "utter
chaos" of the telecom industry warrants consideration of a takeover of collapsed
long distance provider/Internet backbone owner WorldCom by a regional Bell
telephone monopoly.

Wednesday Rep. Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House
Telecommunications Subcommittee, revived previous complaints about Powell's
refusal to step in and ensure that consumers continued receiving service when
cable Internet provider Excite@Home went bankrupt.

Either Excite itself or its cable system owners were governed by the FCC's
authority over broadband access just as WorldCom is now, Markey said. "I hope
you will be less reluctant to assert, on behalf of consumer interest, any and
all FCC authority to prevent abrupt service disruptions."

A day earlier Sens. Herb Kohl and Mike DeWine, the chairman and ranking
Republican on the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, warned a WorldCom/Bell merger
would "diminish the competitive underpinnings" of the 1996 Telecommunications
Act. That law forbids such mergers unless the Bell monopolies prove they have
opened their local telephone markets to competitors.

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