D.C. NOTEBOOK

Nothing can replace the World Series, which was canceled last week along with the remainder of the major league baseball season after millionaire players and owners failed to agree who among them was neediest.

Maybe Reed Hundt, a lawyer with antitrust expertise who now chairs the Federal Communications Commission, has an opinion on the subject.

By the way, what’s with the rumors about Hundt going to the Commerce Department next year? Hundt’s office says he plans to serve out his five-year term, which began almost a year ago.

So, while baseball sits this one out and ponders its antitrust exemption, official Washington continues to push for laws and regulations that expose telecommunications monopolies and oligopolies to new competition.

Congress is within reach of passing historic telecommunications reform legislation, which would let telephone and cable television companies compete with each other and enable the seven Baby Bells to enter the manufacturing and long-distance businesses.

If lawmakers rally to pass a bill before closing out the 103rd Congress, the FCC will have to drop a lot of what it’s doing to implement the legislation by initiating a load of rulemaking proceedings. That would eat up much of the agency’s increased appropriations for fiscal 1995, which begins Oct. 1.

Overall, the wireless telecommunications industry appears to favor House-passed legislation over the Senate bill that’s headed to the floor soon.

Public-safety and other mobile communications groups aren’t happy with the Senate bill’s vagueness over flexible use of broadcast spectrum. Cellular carriers prefer the House bill; cellular resellers the Senate measure.

Whatever happens, the FCC’s wireless agenda is expected to stay on track. Who knows, maybe upcoming personal communications services auctions will be this year’s fall classic. But hell will freeze over before 800 MHz SMR applications are filed again.

Regional narrowband PCS auctions are scheduled for Oct. 26, with broadband PCS bidding slated for December.

In the meantime, federal regulators must address auction, PCS licensing and microwave relocation issues raised in petitions for reconsideration.

Next month, the agency is expected to make good on its promise to Congress to issue big low-earth-orbit satellite rules so that licensing can begin early next year.

Earlier this month, four of the big LEO applicants-Constellation Communications Inc., Mobile Communications Holding Inc., Motorola Satellite Communications Inc. and TRW Inc.-filed a spectrum-sharing proposal with the FCC. Loral-Qualcomm Corp. was not included.

In a related matter, the Clinton administration is expected to take a position soon on whether the International Maritime Satellite Organization should be privatized.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans are hoping to wrestle away control of Congress from the Democrats in mid-term elections.

It may just be wishful thinking on the part of frustrated Republicans, but such a shift would change the makeup of key telecom panels, and put FCC Chairman Hundt under closer scrutiny.

Then again, if upcoming PCS auctions go well, Hundt could be this year’s Mr. October.-Jeffrey Silva

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