The House yesterday passed a compromise amendment to the State Department authorization bill endorsing the administration plan to allow competitive satellite systems to Intelsat, the 20-year-old global satellite consortium.
President Reagan last year decided it was in the public interest to permit competition to the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, a monopoly that provides telex, telephone and TV transmission services to its 108 member nations.
Since then, a war has been waged on Capitol Hill between officials of Intelsat and of the Federal Communications Commission, Commerce and State departments.
Administration officials have contended that Intelsat could maintain its uniform rate structure and provide new competitive satellite services that would compete with a handful of private satellite systems.
Intelsat resisted competition because of fears that entrepreneurs would skim the lucrative satellite traffic along the North Atlantic route and cause rates to rise to some Third World countries.
According to FCC and Capitol Hill sources, Intelsat had lobbied extensively for legislation that would have made it harder for other satellite systems to win approval from the FCC to compete against Intelsat.
The House passed the State Department authorization bill with an amendment reaffirming the president's position. The amendment allows flexible pricing to be introduced by Intelsat members, allowing lower prices where there is competition. The Senate has not yet acted on the matter.
"What happened was terribly important," said Stuart Eizenstat, a consultant to Intelsat and White House chief of staff in the Carter administration. "It recognized that Intelsat was important and needed to be protected, that there is interest in competition without destroying Intelsat , and Intelsat should have the option of flexible pricing."
"It was totally different from how Intelsat wanted it to go forward," one Capitol Hill staff member said. Intelsat preferred a delay in competition, and wanted foreign governments to police competitors on behalf of the United States, he said.