WASHINGTON (AP) _ One of the nation's top telephone regulators will be getting a new listing.

Richard Metzger, chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Common Carrier Bureau, plans to leave the agency next month.

In his four and a half years at the FCC, Metzger played a key role in implementing a 1996 telecommunications law _ the biggest overhaul of U.S. policy in more than 60 years.

Specifically, Metzger helped craft rules guiding regional Bell entry into the long-distance market and revamping telephone pricing to prepare for a more competitive market. He also helped write rules, overturned by a federal court, that were designed to open the $110 billion local phone market to competition.

Metzger, 49, who joined the FCC in December 1993, said he is leaving on his own accord and has not decided what he'll do next. ``The time was right for a change,'' he said.

FCC Chairman Bill Kennard called Metzger a ``great teacher and a friend'' who made ``immense contributions to the work of the commission.''