A former top staff official of the Federal Communications Commission testified today that he never knew American Telephone & Telegraph Corp. told his chief aides that the phone company didn't plan to offer a variety of specialized services to its new long-distance competitors.
Bernard Strassburg, who headed the FCC's common carrier bureau from 1963 to 1973, said in U.S. District Court here that a 1971 FCC decision opening up competition in long-distance telephone service clearly meant that AT&T should provide those specialized services.
AT&T alleges that all the decision meant it had to provide was a telephone link-up between its competitors' microwave terminals and their customers' plants or office phone systems.
George Saunders, chief counsel for AT&T, asked Strassburg why Strassburg didn't tell the phone company of its wrongdoing if AT&T was "flagrantly violating" the FCC by refusing to provide the additional services.
Strassburg said he never knew of the AT&T position until October 1973, when Strassburg wrote the phone company that the FCC decision was broader than AT&T interpreted it to be. Strassburg said he never knew of meetings between AT&T officials and his subordinates in 1971 and 1972 in which AT&T laid out its position.
In April 1974, the FCC ruled that AT&T had to provide the services -- including those known as foreign exchange and CCSA -- to its competitors. -
Strassburg was the first rebuttal witness for MCI Communications Corp., which has filed a $2.7 billion antitrust suit against AT&T charging that the phone company tried to kill off MCI's attempt to enter the long-distance phone business between 1971 and 1974.
Sauders tried to show that the original intent of the FCC decision wasn't as braod as Strassburg said it was and that AT&T violated no laws by denying special hookups to MCI.
He cited a brief filed by the commission in a 1972 lawsuit that said the June 1971 decision required AT&T only to provide "locial loop" connections from microwave terminals to customers premises.
"Doesn't the brief tell the court all?" Saunders asked.
"It did lend itself to that interpretation," Strassburg said. "It was not drafted with the care it should have been." Saunders alleged that a number of FCC staff officials didn't put the same broad interpretation on the orginal 1971 ruling that Strassburg did, and that even a top MCI official told one of his company's clients in October 1973 that the FCC decision was "fuzzy."
Strassburg denied to Saunders that he was criticized by the FCC's chief counsel after he wrote a letter in 1973 saying that AT&T had to provide the specialized services. He said he wasn't aware that his successor wrote an opinion that Strassburg's letter was a misinterpretation of the 1971 decision. o
Saunders asked whether Strassburg had some "supernatural" powers that enabled him to interpret the 1971 decision differently than most others. Strassburg replied that he had been closer to the writing of the decision the most.