Presenting the vision of free links from the information superhighway to every classroom, library and hospital in the US, Vice-President Al Gore presented his long-trailed vision of the superhighway in Los Angeles late on Tuesday. He held out to the telecommunications, computer and entertainment industries the prospect of less-restrictive regulations if they agree to provide […]
Presenting the vision of free links from the information superhighway to every classroom, library and hospital in the US, Vice-President Al Gore presented his long-trailed vision of the superhighway in Los Angeles late on Tuesday. He held out to the telecommunications, computer and entertainment industries the prospect of less-restrictive regulations if they agree to provide data freely to those that might otherwise become the information-poor. It has to be remembered that under the US system, the Administration proposes, Congress disposes, but in this case the signs are that the Administration is pushing at a half-open door. Gore proposed a single new regulatory agency for all players in the convergence, from whichever direction they are coming, removing the rules that keep local telephone, cable and long distance companies from entering each other’s businesses. The Administration will authorise the Federal Communications Commission to reduce regulation to allow smaller competitors into all markets, but big players, such as the Baby Bells, will be blocked from using their present monopolies as unfair leverage, he said. All players must provide their services and access to their facilities to others on a nondiscriminatory basis. Today we have a dream for a different kind of superhighway, said Gore, an information superhighway that can save lives, create jobs and give every American young and old the chance for the best education available to anyone, anywhere. The plan would transfer regulatory power from the courts that oversaw the break-up of the telephone monopoly in 1984 to the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department. The Administration will move to prevent states from imposing barriers to new companies entering the local phone business and will require local phone companies to open up their communications networks to other competitors. Bells would still be barred from buying cable companies in their own service areas, although that restriction could be revisited within five years. We must open the local telephone exchanges, those wires and switches that link homes and offices to the local telephone companies, he said. Competition will be intense, he noted, but will help drive continuing advances in the technology and keep down the cost of services. A new Title 7 system would cover companies that commit to making access available to all, in return allowing them to exempt themselves from local or state regulation, though some rate regulation would continue until competition is established for the services. These Title 7 companies would be able to avoid the danger of conflicting or duplicative regulatory burdens, Gore said. There is no company that currently meets the requirements to elect Title 7 regulation, Gore’s office told Dow Jones & Co; telephone companies are currently regulated under Title 2, and cable television companies under Title 6.