The Telecom Reform Act: Rhetoric vs. Reality

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More than a year has gone by since President Clinton signed 1996’s Telecommunications Reform Act, which he claimed would “ bring the future to our doorstep.” The lower prices and more widespread access to telecom services promised by the act still haven’t materialized, but threats of Internet and television censorship continue to loom in our future.

The Telecom Act calls for governmental deregulation of the telecommunications industry, in the hopes that competition between companies will lower prices and improve the quality of service. But so far it seems only to have led to the concentration of media ownership through a series of mega-mergers.

The act also contains a universal service provision which insures high-grade, affordable service for low-income households, consumers in rural and other expensive areas, and public organizations (schools, libraries and health care providers). Unfortunately, there has yet to be a change in the universal service offered by companies; they currently only discount voice-quality telephone lines, not Internet access or higher bandwidth lines.

Finally, many still fear that the Telecom Act will lead to widespread media censorship with its regulation of the Internet’s content (a la the Communications Decency Act) and implementation of the V-Chip rating system on all new televisions.

To find out more about what the Telecom Reform Act promised, and what it has — and hasn’t — done so far, join NetAction and the Center for Educational Priorities in a month-long protest, as they demand that the Telecom Act is implemented for the true benefit of the public. You can also e-mail the FCC at vchip@fcc.gov with your views about the V-Chip.

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