A member of the Federal Communications Commission who has generally been a supporter of deregulation initiatives, yesterday broke with FCC leadership and suggested that the commission may be moving too fast to deregulate the telephone industry with the public likely to pay the price.
Joseph Fogarty, a Democratic member of the FCC, said in a speech that the commission, primarily in its controversial Computer II decision deregulating key facets of the telephone industry and restructuring the Bell System, has moved too quickly with its continuing emphasis on competition.
Further, Fogarty said the FCC has acted without enough attention to the consequences of freeing some facets of the industry from the control of the FCC while keeping others under the reign of regulation.
Fogarty said the commission is "losing sight of its paramount responsibility," protecting the public and "not merely the private interests of individual competitors," Fogarty said. "It is not unfair to say that the commission took a huge leap before it looked where it was going."
The FCC's decision deregulates customer premises equipment, like terminals and receivers, by March 1982, a date Fogarty said "must be exteneded." The facet of the proposed deregulation would lead to changes in the rate base calculations which could result in higher local phone rates.
Fogarty acknowledged that the FCC should look carefully at preventing substantial cross subsidies between the regulated and unregulated ends of AT&T's business, but said the FCC has been too rigorous in separating the costs and accounting methods of the two entities.
The FCC's Computer II decision, he said, "appears to prefer protecting certain competitors from the rigors of full" competition.
As Fogarty was suggesting the FCC may have gone overboard with its deregulatory thrust, a major telephone equipment lobbying group has called for an major expansion of FCC power.
The group made the proposal in a resolution adopted at a convention in Florida. Further, NATA called on Congress to also ban communications companies from entering the banking business, an obvious reference to the growing marketing thrust of AT&T.