Larry F. Darby, 69

Larry F. Darby, 69, dies; economist headed FCC's Common Carrier Bureau

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Larry F. Darby, 69, an economist who became an early and vigorous advocate for deregulation in the telecommunications industry and headed a powerful unit of the Federal Communications Commission, died May 18 at his home in Washington after a heart attack.

Dr. Darby, a telecommunications consultant in recent years, came to prominence in the late 1970s as a senior economist with the White House Office of Telecommunications Policy and then as an FCC chief economist.

In a city sensitive about new regulation, he was outspoken in policy papers and interviews explaining the rationale for why the telecommunications market should be deregulated. His argument was that while a monopoly such as AT&T might see a decline in market share, that competition would stimulate the whole market and consumers would benefit.

"A little bit of competition in these markets has spurred historical monopolies to a level of performance that is simply not attainable through regulation," he told Forbes magazine in 1979 when he was chief of the FCC's Common Carrier Bureau, which oversees regulation of the nation's phone system.

Before leaving the FCC that same year, Dr. Darby helped frame a landmark FCC regulation that prohibited major carriers such as AT&T from engaging in anti-competitive practices in the field of data processing. The 1980 regulation, often called Computer II, said the carriers must market data-processing equipment and services through separate subsidiaries.

Larry Franklin Darby was a native of Mooreland, Ind., and a graduate of Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. He received a doctorate in economics from Indiana University in 1971 and then taught economics and business at Temple University in Philadelphia.

With his economics background, he was a rare non-lawyer to head the Common Carrier Bureau. "My appointment reflects a growing awareness of the importance of the economics of the industry and the importance of economics analysis in regulatory proceedings," he told the New York Times.

"This is a big industry," he said, "and AT&T, for one, is a big consumer of capital. There is the realization now that it is not enough to do things legally. They ought to be done efficiently."

In the 1980s, Dr. Darby headed a joint congressional commission on rate regulation and then was vice president of corporate finance for Shearson Lehman Brothers, the investment banking giant.

He later formed his self-titled telecommunications consultancy, which he continued until his death, and was a senior fellow and board member of the American Consumer Institute, an independent research group that studies the impact of regulations and policies on consumers. He was also senior economic adviser to CompassRose International, a consulting firm started by his wife of 26 years, Walda Roseman, a former FCC official.

His first marriage, to Elizabeth Huntoon Darby, ended in divorce.

Besides his wife, survivors include two sons from his first marriage, Michael Darby of Cupertino, Calif., and John David "J.D." Darby of Silver Spring; a stepson, Erik Roseman of Bellport, N.Y.; two sisters; and five grandchildren.

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