When I called Bernie Strassburg requesting an interview, I also asked him for a recommendation of one of the key staff members of the Common Carrier Bureau (CCB), he without hesitation named Michael “Mike” Slomin. Mike was no longer with the CCB, but with Bell Communications Research, or Bellcore, the research and development consortium created by the seven Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOC’s) post AT&T divestiture on January 1,1984 to effectively replace Bell Laboratories that was retained by AT&T.
On entering the corporate lobby of the massive Bellcore headquarters, I asked the receptionist to let Mr. Slomin know I had arrived. I had a short wait, and as we left the busy lobby, I asked if there was a place where I could get a cup of coffee and we could talk privately. He took me to a spacious cafeteria that was empty but for the staff that was cleaning up the luncheon traffic. We took our coffees to a vacant corner where I chugged mine, hoping it would rid me of my yawns and wake me up. And I set up my recorder.
Mike shared that he had both a degree in electrical engineering and a JD degree and a LLM in international and trade law. He worked for the Common Carrier Bureau (CCB) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 1973 until 1979 and then again from 1981 until 1986. In between, he had worked as a lawyer for the Communications Satellite Corp. He had now been with Bellcore for nearly two years. What makes this interview especially valuable is in his words: “In my years at the FCC I wrote all of the registration decisions of the 1970s, those on brief to the Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court, and those decisions were affirmed. I had one of the moderate roles in interpretations of the first Computer Inquiry, [and] in preparing the Notice of Proposed Rule Making of the second Computer Inquiry… I also had major roles in policy decisions having to do with the entry of IBM into communications.”
Afterwards I was glad I trusted my instincts and conducted this serendipitous interview. It was challenging at times, and I too often substituted agreement or understanding as a means of keeping Mike talking, for I wanted to make sure I understood his conclusions: read for example the many takes on the importance of Carterfone. One conclusion was certain; it was a heady time for a junior lawyer to be working at the CCB.
Keywords: Common Carrier Bureau, FCC, AT&T, Carterfone, Data Access Arrangement (DAA), Computer Inquiry I, Computer Inquiry II, Hush-A-Phone, PhoneMate