SAN FRANCISCO—A battle is brewing over a Federal Communications Commission proposal that could double the cost of accessing many on-line computer networks.

Users affected by the proposal include the thousands of research labs across the nation that regularly use on-line computer services to keep them up-to-date on specific topics or to assist otherwise in their work. The change could force such labs to severely curtail or drop their use of such services.

At issue is the right of so-called “enhanced service providers” to be exempted from paying access fees for using local telephone company exchange equipment. Users who connect their computers to a computer network now need only dial a local telephone number, even if the on-line service is located in another state. All routing and long-distance communications are handled by such independent companies as Tymnet and Telenet. The user pays local telephone charges, the Tymnet or Telenet network fee...

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