Regional telephone company Nynex Corp. was indicted Thursday on a charge of violating the 1982 court order that broke up the old Bell system.
The New York-based company was indicted on one count of criminal contempt of court for allegedly providing information services to customers in violation of the 1982 consent decree.
Nynex denied any wrongdoing.
The indictment is likely to provide ammunition to those opposing efforts in Congress to lift some of the restrictions that the 1982 decree imposed on the regional Bell companies.
The landmark 1982 ruling by U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene had prohibited the seven regional Bell holding companies from engaging in certain types of business, including processing computerized data.
The indictment, obtained by the Justice Department's antitrust division, accused Nynex through its Nashville, Tenn., subsidiary, Telco Research Corp., of providing data processing and information retrieval services over telephone lines from April, 1986, to February, 1987.
The indictment did not cite possible penalties.
Telco provided a computer and software to the long-distance company, MCI Communications Corp., to aid in making MCI's network more efficient, Nynex spokesman Bob O'Brien said Thursday.
The government said Nynex violated terms of the 1982 consent decree, known as the Modification of Final Judgment, that prohibits Nynex and the other regional Bell companies from providing information services.
The consent decree was set up to divide different types of communication services between American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and the spinoff companies.
"Our position is that there was no violation of the MFJ," O'Brien said.
Nynex purchased Telco in April, 1985, and "Telco was providing service through MCI prior to our acquisition," O'Brien said. Nynex in May, 1986, asked the Justice Department to scrutinize the computer service to avoid any possible violation, he added.
The indictment said Nynex modified the MCI agreement on two occasions, in April and October, 1986.
Nynex, with Justice Department approval, subsequently tried to transfer title of the computer to MCI, but MCI didn't want it, and Nynex ended the agreement in February, 1987, O'Brien said.
In a statement, Assistant Atty. Gen. James F. Rill said: "A willful violation of any consent decree is a very serious matter deserving of criminal penalties.
"A court order is the law, and companies bound by a decree are not free to deliberately or recklessly disregard that decree," Rill said.
The Federal Communications Commission in February fined Nynex a record $1.4 million for $118.5 million in alleged overcharges sold by Nynex's purchasing arm to its two telephone companies, New York Telephone and New England Telephone.
Nynex appealed the fine.