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Church group asks FCC to vet MCI

Acquisition of WorldCom's comms licences should not be a given

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One-time WorldCom scourge, the United Church of Christ (UCC) has officially asked the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to block the transfer of the collapsed telecoms giant's operating licences to its new incarnation, MCI.

The UCC also wants the FCC to force a hearing on whether or not MCI is "fit" to be a FCC licensee. It's also seeking a guarantee that the FCC will only transfer the WorldCom licenses and authorisations to a company "with clean hands and with sufficient character qualifications".

The UCC is a Protestant organisation representing 1.4 million churchgoers in the US. It's been on WorldCom's case since last autumn deciding that an example should be made of WorldCom, perpetrator of the world's biggest fraud, in a bid to encourage other companies - particularly those in the information business - to adopt more ethical ways of doing business.

The UCC has been campaigning for the imposition of severe penalties on WorldCom management.

What concerns the UCC is that MCI may simply be the old-style WorldCom operating under a new name. Indeed, the UCC pointed to recent allegations that just as WorldCom may have been involved in manipulating FCC-regulated access charges, so too may MCI have been. If the allegations are correct, both companies may have cheated competitors out of up to $1 billion, the UCC claims.

Last year, the UCC informally asked the FCC to block the transfer of WorldCom's long distance, Internet and other service licences, but the FCC rejected the request. The most recent filing with the FCC, made this past Friday, appears to make the same request, but this time on a formal footing.

Essentially, the UCC is keen that the FCC tackle WorldCom according to the Commission's established powers and not simply rely on the findings of other governmental agencies, which cover WorldCom, but not MCI.

Last April, the Rev. Robert Chase, communications director of the UCC, said regarding WorldCom: "Stewardship of the nation's Internet and telecommunication infrastructure and facilities is an important public trust. Companies granted the privilege of running these facilities bear enormous responsibility to assure that the rapidly developing world of communication services are operated in the public interest."

The UCC now wants the FCC to ensure that MCI is up to that task. ®

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