A Newt Nod For The Bells

THE NATION'S LONG-DISTANCE companies are scrambling to kill a telecommunications-reform bill that could make it to the House floor as early as July 26. Just a few weeks ago, AT&T, MCI, and Sprint ran television ads backing the bill. Not anymore. After an intense lobbying campaign, the seven regional Bell companies persuaded House Speaker Newt Gingrich to alter the legislation in a way that would make it easier for them to enter the $70 billion long-distance business. Now the long-distance cabal, led by its chief lobbyist, former Senator Howard Baker, wants the bill changed--or killed. The legislation will probably still pass, but it's no longer a slam dunk.

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