White House deputy chief of staff Roy Neel is the top contender for president of the U.S. Telephone Assn., D.C. sources said last week.

The selection of Neel would be a coup for USTA, which is fighting for passage of legislation that would allow telephone companies into the cable TV business.

The telcos are also hoping to convince lawmakers to lift restrictions that prevent the Baby Bells from providing long-distance phone service.

Neel was a telecommunications specialist for Vice President Al Gore during Gore’s stints in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Neel joined Gore’s staff after the Tennessee Democrat became vice president and Neel later moved to the White House position.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that Neel is expected to take a job in the telecommunications industry by the end of the year. Neel has also been approached by the cable TV industry and other telecommunications firms, according to the Post.

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