Congress' Energy and Commerce Committee has launched an investigation into charges that the Federal Communication Commission allegedly mishandled the licensing of an Orem telecommunications firm.

The investigation centers around alleged discriminatory treatment of TeleSTAR Inc. by the FCC in favor of competitors MCI Telecommunications Corp. and Western TeleCommunications Inc., said a spokeswoman for Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah.Nielson serves on the committee and requested the investigation.

The FCC has twice denied an operating license to TeleSTAR because of violating regulations by constructing a microwave network without FCC approval.

But, for similar violations by MCI, the commission assessed a $10,000 fine and allowed the company to continue operation.

"Even though MCI has admitted to repeated violations over a period of years, the FCC has effectively let them off the hook," the spokeswoman said. "TeleSTAR, on the other hand, has been shut down for four years and has been forced into bankruptcy proceedings."

Nielson said there are a number of other allegations, including charges of complicity in the commission's dealings with MCI.

The committee has requested documents from the FCC, but Nielson said he didn't know how long the investigation would take before hearings are started.