Senator blocks FCC noms vote

WASHINGTON — The confirmation of four nominees at the Federal Communications Commission ran into another stumbling block Friday when a member of the Senate Commerce Committee announced he was holding up the nominations to protest a possible increase in rates for rural telephone customers.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) said he was “temporarily” standing in the way of a final Senate vote on all four FCC nominations because he is “concerned” about the views of William Kennard, whom President Clinton has picked to replace FCC chairman Reed Hundt.

Burns’ problem with Kennard stems from a decision reached by the FCC earlier this year to alter the formula for federal contributions to the so-called Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes rural telephone service. Burns is holding Kennard accountable for the FCC’s decision because the nominee has been working at the FCC as its general counsel.

Committee staffers said they were working with Burns to resolve his complaint. Burns has indicated he will back off if the Senate votes to direct the FCC to revisit the Universal Service Fund formula.

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