By: Debra Gersh Hernandez Senate version includes subsidiary safeguards negotiated by the newspaper industry and the RBOCs sp.
AS THE WAVE of telco hearings in the House of Representatives began to wind down, a comprehensive telecommunications bill was introduced in the Senate. Sponsored by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), the Communications Act of 1994 allows the regional Bell operating companies to engage in electronic publishing through separate subsidiaries and bars them from cross-subsidization of any information services. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. John Danforth (R-Mo.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who earlier had been behind major telecommunications legislation. Other major provisions of the legislation include guarantees of universal service; encouragement of development of new technology; preemption of state entry barriers for creation of a "seamless" network; lifting of manufacturing restrictions and long-distance service under certain conditions; regulation of RBOC-provided cable service; protection of consumers' and competitors' telephone and billing information; and review of Federal Communications Commission regulations, particularly concerning broadcasters, to ensure media diversity. The Hollings bill includes subsidiary safeguards negotiated by the newspaper industry and RBOCs. Newspaper Association of America president and CEO Cathleen Black pointed out that these are similar to the safeguards in H.R. 3626, sponsored by Reps. Jack Brooks (D-Texas) and John Dingell (D-Mich.). The NAA had supported the earlier Senate legislation, but the National Newspaper Association had not, calling for stricter safeguards. The NNA did, however, throw its support to the latest Senate bill, noting that new provisions ensuring full access to nonurban areas recognize the special protection required by smaller, community newspapers, explained R. Jack Fishman, president of Lakeway Publishers Inc., Morristown, Tenn., and chairman of the NNA government relations committee.