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Real Leadership Needed In Access-Fee Battle

Is the Bush administration ready to show some leadership in the area of telecommunications? We'll know soon enough, when we see the administration's response to actions taken last Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for District Columbia, which if unopposed will allow RBOCs to raise the fees they charge long-distance providers.

With a June 30 deadline to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, the Bushies now face a bit of a dilemma: Do they actively challenge some of their party's biggest contributors (the RBOCs), or do they give the Democrats another weapon in the presidential campaign by allowing higher prices for telephone services? It's not an easy question to answer, but those are the kinds of problems that vex you when you're the top dog.

Lumped on top of the record prices Americans are now paying for gasoline, higher phone bills could be a weighty straw on the back of Bush's re-election campaign. Real leadership could involve putting some new leaders in place at the FCC, instead of the do-nothing regime led by Michael Powell. But with bigger problems looming at the CIA and the war in Iraq, it's doubtful the Bush administration has the bandwidth to deal with real bandwidth. Which is something voters may remember if and when they watch their phone bills increase this fall.