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Renita Jablonski: The Federal Communications Commission appears likely to dramatically cut back the amount of information it collects about the service quality and customer complaints at the country's largest phone companies. As Marketplace's Steve Henn reports, a formal decision could come as soon as tomorrow. That's got some consumer groups up in arms.

Steve Henn: Consumer advocates say the telephone industry's chief regulator is about gauge out its own eyes.

Chris Murray: I think that's right.

Chris Murray is senior counsel at consumer Reports. I reached him on his home phone.

Henn: [static sounds] Is your phone line always this bad?

It could have been a bad line in his house or a local network that needed work but ...

Murray: You just don't know if you don't have a base-line of data. Through these data, people found in 2000 and 2001 that were companies in certain places who were really letting their networks slide. And it was only because they were having to report, that anybody found out about it.

Already, some of smaller phone companies don't report. Their big rivals like AT&T, Verizon and Qwest say the current system's unfair and they argue that information on quality is collected in other ways. But Murray and many state regulators disagree. And they worry, if the FCC stops watching, that static in this industry will only get worse.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.