Is The Delicate Balance Teetering? p. 15

By: Debra Gersh Hernandez Bell companies upset with additions to a Senate telco
bill they and newspapers previously found acceptable sp.

THE DELICATE BALANCE struck between the newspaper industry and the regional Bell operating companies could be teetering a bit because of additions to a Senate telco bill.
Two House bills contain definitions of electronic publishing services that would be regulated.
Those definitions, while not perfect, are acceptable to both newspapers and the RBOCs.
Both bills in the House, H.R. 3626 and H.R. 3636, have been passed by their subcommittees and were awaiting full committee action.
In the Senate, S. 1822, the Communications Act of 1994, expands the definition of services to be regulated to include such categories as entertainment, and the Bells apparently are not pleased.
"Most of the safeguards to which we agreed are in this bill and represent a delicate balance," Bell Atlantic Corp. president James Cullen told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
"Since I was personally involved in this, I can tell you that perhaps the key element in our success was that all aspects of this agreement were described in tangible, specific and concrete terms. Everyone understood what was covered by the agreement and how the rules would work," he testified.
Explaining that he is concerned that portions of S. 1822 "go beyond the balance that was struck," Cullen noted, "While a number of these changes in the language may seem relatively minor, they are really very important because they create huge uncertainties.
"Indeed, the definition of electronic publishing itself has been significantly expanded and become so open-ended that it completely alters the terms that the publishers and the RBOCs worked so hard to craft."
Cullen said upsetting that balance "creates uncertainty where there was once certainty . . . .
"If such agreements, which have been painstakingly negotiated, are now to become only the starting point for piling on even more restrictions, this will have a chilling effect on future efforts by industries to try and work out their differences," he said, adding that he is concerned that the bill's gateway services section could "deter and delay deployment of information services."
Also testifying before the Senate committee were Frank Bennack Jr., president and CEO of Hearst Corp., for the Newspaper Association of America, and R. Jack Fishman, president of Lakeway Publishers Inc., Morristown, Tenn., for the National Newspaper Association.
Both Bennack and Fishman testified about the House legislation, and their comments to the Senate were similar to what they said previously (E&P, Feb. 19, p. 13).
Fishman emphasized the need for localism provisions in the Senate bill and reminded senators to include community papers in the development of the information superhighway.
Bennack stressed the importance of safeguards for electronic publishing and other provisions in S. 1822 that encourage local telephone competition.
Others appearing before the Senate committee were John Lynn, telecommunications counsel in the office of government affairs at EDS Corp. and chairman of the telecommunications committee of the Information Technology Association of America; David Carter, owner of National Security Service in Raleigh, president of the Central Station Alarm Association and treasurer of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association; and Sandra Weis, director of government affairs at Prodigy Services Co.


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