cr> Aftermath / Press Reports


Richard Moore

Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1996
Sender: John Whiting <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Guardian re: US Telecommunications Bill

The Guardian didn't even carry this as a news item, but
somebody in editorial saw its importance, which is more
than most of the US press seem to have managed.



The [London] Guardian  February 3 1996

LEAD EDITORIAL: Policing a global village

LET NO ONE think that the US Telecommunications Bill - which
was overwhelmingly approved by Congress yesterday - is
simply an American affair.  It is true that key parts of it
merely bring to the US the depth of deregulation (like
allowing cable television companies to compete in the
telephone market) that the UK pioneered years ago.  But it
is much more than that and we may live to regret some of its
excesses.  It not only lays down the ground rules for the
information technology revolution along Jeffersonian
principles of universal and affordable access (backed by $20
billion of subsidies so the revolution can reach high cost
regions of the continent) but also sets up draconian
legislation for the policing of cyberspace.  This will
affect Internet users all over the world.  The bill, to be
signed by President Clinton within a week, will ban the
transmission of any communication by word or image deemed
"indecent" if the recipients could be under 18 years old.
Since computer-literate under 18-year-olds are regular Net
users this electronic version of the Lady Chatterley trial
could trigger a wave of censorship which could undermine the
libertarian culture of the Net while seeming to contradict
the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech.
Fines of up to $250,000 or prison will be imposed on
distributors of "indecent" material including, it seems, the
"seven dirty words" and texts of classics like Ulysses.
There are fears that Christian fundamentalists will even use
the law to prevent discussion of abortion.  There is a
strong case for preventing pornography from being easily
available to people under age but this can, and must, be
done in a way that doesn't prevent adults from reading or
writing anything that isn't acceptable to a minor.

More positively, the bill also makes it mandatory for all
future television sets to be equipped with a "V chip"
enabling parents to prevent their children from watching
unsuitably violent or explicit films unless they key in a
password permitting it.  If this is popular it will only be
a matter of time before something similar happens over here.
British politicians will also take a keen interest in what
happens to Senator Dole's (so far ill-fated) proposals to
auction radio spectrum instead of giving it away free.  Mr
Dole calls this "corporate welfare" and reckons that an
astonishing $70 billion could be raised in this way to spend
on better things.  He has a point which ought not to be lost
on the Labour Party as it tries to fathom ways of financing
an expanding welfare state from a diminishing number of
people able and willing to pay tax.  The senator dropped his
amendment in order to let the bill pass but has pledged to
get it reversed later.


The final lesson for Britain from the bill is that the
Government should free British Telecom to compete freely
with the cable companies.  At the moment as part of the
Conservatives' pioneering deregulation - cable companies in
the UK (nearly all of them North American) can provide
television and telephony down the same line whereas BT can
only offer telephone communication.  In America both cable
corporations and telephone companies will now be able to
compete with each other, thereby enabling the regional "Baby
Bells" to take on the cable companies and vice versa.  This
could lower prices not just in the US but internationally as
well.  The Government should forthwith complete the
revolution it started by unshackling British Telecom.  The
global village surely deserves a level playing field.

Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1996
Sender: John Whiting <•••@••.•••>
Subject: David Plotnikoff (clipping)

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

>>From today's Mercury News:



Mercury News Staff Writer

Anti-pornography lobbyists hailed it as a victory, but Internet free-
speech advocates, on-line providers and some members of Congress greeted
the nation's telecommunications overhaul with apprehension, uncertainty
and anger, saying it actually raises more questions than it answers
about what's acceptable in the increasingly popular on-line world.

Rather than setting standards, many said, the telecommunications act may
only detour contentious battles over decency into the courts, where
resolution could be a long ways away.

At issue are portions of the bill that will subject on-line speech to
the same relatively vague decency standard that broadcast media outlets
must now meet. Civil libertarians and on-line services had fought
unsuccessfully for subjecting on-line speech to the much more legally
specific measure of obscenity that applies to print media.

''There is so much pressure on the Congress to generate telecom
deregulation that the concerns about constitutional limits on
governmental actions have been lost in the flood,'' said Mike Godwin,
staff counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. ''It takes a lot
less courage for representatives or senators to vote for bad legislation
and let the courts clean it up than it does to try and get the law right
the first time.''

Critics assert the broadcast measure of decency is unconstitutionally
broad and vague, plus unsuited for the new medium. ''To subject the Net
to a measure of control equal to that of broadcast television is
ridiculous,'' said Shabbir Safdar, top legislation watcher for Voters
Telecommunications Watch. ''The Internet is not like television at all.
Ultimately, if there's any question about whether something is offensive
or not, people will tend to self-censor.''




Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1996
Sender: John Whiting <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Rory O'Connor (clipping)

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

>>From today's Mercury News:



Mercury News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Congress overwhelmingly approved a controversial, sweeping
revision of the laws regulating the nation's telecommunications
services, voting Thursday to rewrite the rules for everything from
telephone service and cable television to broadcasters and the Internet
computer network.

Despite some brief drama over anti-abortion language added to the
compromise bill at the last minute, the result was never in doubt. The
House, which debated the bill for less than two hours, passed it on a
414-16 vote. The Senate approved it with equal dispatch, on a 91-5

Likening the bill to earlier deregulation of the nation's airlines, and
citing speeches by software billionaire Bill Gates, Republicans and
Democrats alike praised the bill as a boost to the nation's economy and
a boon to consumers.

''This is the greatest jobs bill passed in my term in Congress,'' said
Rep. Jack Fields, R-Tex., one of the prime movers behind the

''Some companies will be winners, some companies will be losers. But
many more will be winners than losers,'' said Rep. Edward Markey, D-
Mass., who sponsored a similar bill in 1994 that failed. ''But the
ultimate winners will be consumers.''

The bill now goes to President Clinton, who will sign it into law,
according to Leon Panetta, White House chief of staff.

The administration had threatened to veto the bill over concerns it
would raise cable and phone rates and do too little to promote
competition. But Vice President Gore called the bill ''an historic
event'' in a statement Thursday.

''The legislation will not only create jobs, it will help connect every
schoolchild in every classroom in America to the information
superhighway by the end of this decade,'' Gore said.


Most objections raised during debate Thursday concerned provisions that
give television broadcasters a huge new segment of the nation's airwaves
so they can begin experimenting with digital television broadcasts.
Opponents, led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., attacked the provision as
a $70 billion giveaway to one of the nation's most powerful and wealthy
business interests.

Opponents also criticized the bill for lifting restrictions on the
number of television and radio stations any one corporation can own, and
provisions allowing mergers of media companies that were previously
prohibited. They said that would concentrate too much power in the hands
of a few huge media conglomerates.

Two other aspects also came under fire: provisions that would ban
''indecent'' language and images from the Internet, and the deregulation
of cable TV rates.

''The cable provisions allow for deregulation before there is
competition, raising the specter of an unregulated monopoly,'' Conyers
said. ''In this Congress, we have new leadership that has decided
consumer protection has to take a back seat to industry interests.''


The bill raced through passage only after months of intense lobbying by
companies of all kinds. With billions at stake -- some foresee a market
worth a trillion dollars by the end of the decade -- the halls of
Congress were crowded with lobbyists representing broadcasters, long-
distance services, local phone companies, cable TV providers, computer
makers and even burglar alarm companies.

''This is the most lobbied piece of legislation I have ever seen,'' said
Rep. Ron Klink, D-Penn. ''This is the most lobbied piece of legislation
I hope I ever see. I don't want anyone to try and break these records.''



In broadest terms, industry groups cheered passage of the bill, calling
it the dawn of the 21st century in the United States. But several
consumer groups expressed disappointment or outright anger.

The American Civil Liberties Union deplored the Internet provision,
calling it ''censorship'' and vowing a court fight. The Consumer
Federation of America called the compromise bill an improvement, but the
changes ''were not enough for us to support it,'' said spokesman Bradley


by Jim Jarvis
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Louis, Mo.

                      THE MYTH ABOUT PORN ON THE NET
                               by Jim Jarvis
                        American Reporter Columnist

        ST. LOUIS -- Many people these days, especially those who aren't
online, tend to associate the Internet with easy access to pornography. In
fact, if we are to believe certain politicians and journalists, there are
30 million computers in cyberspace dying to dump smut, twist minds, ruin
youth, and turn us all into sex maniacs.
        Last fall, legislation was proposed in Congress -- the Exon
Amendment to the telecommunications bill -- which would attempt to remove
"indecency" on the Net. Since no one can ever agree on what is good taste,
art, pornography, or "indecency" in our culture, it would be impossible to
enforce. Many see this amendment as a major threat to free speech as well.
        What is especially disconcerting here is that the members of
Congress and the Senate who are behind this amendment, including Senator
Exon, freely admit that they have never been online, and are just reacting
to what they hear and read. It is easy to see that we are bearing down on
an election year as "family values" get prominent air time again.
        The reality is that X-rated material is but a tiny fraction of
what is on the Internet. If the Internet were a football field, porn would
take up about 1/64th of an inch. Yet, reflecting the times in which we
live, the porn receives a major part of the media coverage about the
Internet. One gets the impression that the Net is a huge adult video and
bookstore in the sky rather than a vast information and communication
resource, with adult material being just a minor part.
        The public newsgroups on the Net, mostly in the alt. binaries
section, are where the majority of the hard core pornography is found that
people complain about. There is almost no porn on the WorldWideWeb sites,
despite what the publicity says. Kids are unlikely to run across smut by
        Most online porn is on private dial-in electronic bulletin boards
that you have to pay to participate in. It would be impossible for a youth
to get in accidentally as most demand credit cards or upfront cash before
allowing access. These "adult" boards are not really part of the Internet.
        On the Net, kids won't come across adult-oriented sites unless
they deliberately look for them and know how to download and decode the
material. And this can be easily prevented by having their access blocked
and activity online logged by a program on their home computer such as
        Sadly, there are some adults, who will lure teens into live chats
and talk "dirty" on the large online services such as America Online. But
again, these services are not really part of the Internet and the young
person's activity can be easily monitored and controlled by the parents
with the service's software.
        In reality, most of the adult pictures on the Net are of poor
composition, time-consuming to decode and paste together, and, frankly,
boring. Most adults check it out a time or two to see what the fuss is
about and move on, never to return. If X-rated material is your kick,
you'll find better quality at the nearest magazine stand.
        A colleague of mine likes to say that "the problem with the world
is that wherever people go, they bring themselves with them." Adventures
like the Internet are going to bring out the best and the worst in people.
So, if you are going to be involved in the Net, as in life, be prepared to
run into both.
        Some politicians will try and exploit fear for personal gain; some
in the media will highlight the controversial parts of the Net because
controversy makes news and sex sells; and some sick souls will try and use
the Net to act out their fantasy life.
        But the Net, like radio and television, is a neutral technological
tool, in itself neither good nor bad. It is how we choose to use it that
determines the final outcome. We don't need censors. We need greater
personal responsibility.


 (Jim Jarvis, president of the Gateway MacUsers Group, is a psychologist.)


 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 Materials may be reposted in their entirety for non-commercial use.