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McCain Protests Effort To Change Cable Rules

WASHINGTON -Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) raised new concerns that Congress might attempt to change cable-ownership rules in leftover spending bills that need President Clinton's signature.

In a Dec. 12 letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), McCain said there were reports of a deal that includes a plan to "reformulate" Federal Communications Commission cable-ownership rules and attribution rules in exchange for phasing out payments Baby Bells make to competitors to terminate voice and data traffic.

"I want to express my strong objections to the inclusion of any such provisions," McCain said. "These proposed rider provisions clearly seek to circumvent the proper legislative process for only one reason-to serve the needs of special interests."

AT&T, which exceeds the FCC's ownership limit, has been pressing friendly lawmakers on Capitol Hill to modify the rules. The MSO has complained that the rules unfairly attribute non-controlling minority investments in other cable companies.

An AT&T spokesman had no immediate response.