By: Debra Gersh Hernandez Clinton administration plans to introduce legislation sp.
THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION this month will introduce legislation to lift restrictions on the telecommunications industry. "This administration intends to create an environment that stimulates a private system of free-flowing information," Vice President Al Gore said during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. Although short on details ? he promised to outline the plan more fully Jan. 11 in Los Angeles, Gore said, "The administration will support removal over time under appropriate conditions of judicial and legislative restrictions on all types of telecommunications companies: cable, telephone, utilities, television and satellite." Gore said this will be done "through both legislative and administrative proposals prepared after extensive consultation with Congress, industry, public interest and consumer groups, the state and local governments. "Our goal is not to design the market of the future. It is to provide the principles that shape the market," he explained. "And it is to provide the rules governing this difficult transition to an open market for information. "We are committed in that transition to protecting the availability, affordability and diversity of information and information technology as market forces replace regulations and judicial models that are no longer appropriate," Gore said. The legislative package will be based on the following principles: ? Encouraging private investment in building the information infrastructure. ? Providing open access to the network at a fair and equitable price to prevent companies that own the networks from furnishing access only to their programming. ? Avoiding creation of a society of information haves and have-nots by making sure that policies result in lower prices for everyone, which also reduces the need for government subsidies. ? Encouraging flexibility so the policies can "stand the test of time" as technology advances and changes. The vice president acknowledged two pending telecommunications bills in the House and one in the Senate and said the administration has "worked very carefully with the sponsors of those bills, each of which take on a slightly different part of the larger set of issues. They've done a lot of heavy lifting. They have achieved some significant breakthroughs." "We are still in communication with them about how to incorporate our view of the right outcome on particular parts of the problems they address," he added. The administration nevertheless endorses the "basic principles" of the bills, he said. Gore pointed out that dialogue with congressional leaders and industry and public interest groups will continue as legislation is crafted to "eliminate many of the regulatory barriers on the information highway ? and perform the most major surgery on the Communications Act since it was enacted in 1934." Also important is ensuring that laws are enforced "fairly and thoroughly, including those that are designed to prevent anticompetitive practices," he said. Noting that among the policy makers working on this issue was Anne Bingaman, assistant attorney general for antitrust, the vice president said, "Our administration believes very strongly . . . that just as suffocating overregulation can stifle competition and innovation, so the abandonment of antitrust principles and the surrender to private conglomerations of monopoly power can have the same effect."