Re: CPSR document on telecom [cr-95/10/27]


Sender: "Craig A. Johnson" <•••@••.•••>

> Sender: •••@••.••• (Glen Raphael)
> As a CPSR member, I have problems with the proposed telecom
> document. I apparently just don't get it. Let's see:

Apparently not.

> >    In a direct blow to diversity, the bill raises the percentage
> >    of national audience that a single person or company can reach
> >    from 25% to 35%.
> If I'm reading this right, then why isn't it 100%?  What exactly is
> wrong with a single person or company being able to reach _anyone_
> who chooses to use that medium and feels like dialing that entity
> up? Isn't one great thing about the Web that it provides this very
> capability?

Uh, I think you missed something in the translation from 
narrowcasting -- the Net -- to broadcasting.  Broadcasting is *not 
yet* interactive, and there is *not* sufficient diversity to warrant 
raising ownership limits to 50 percent, as the bill would have done, before 
the Markey amendment was approved limiting the audience share to 35 

Markey's amendment kept limits on whether the national networks "can
gobble up the whole rest of the country and whether or not in
individual cities and towns cable companies can purchase the
biggest TV station or the biggest TV station can purchase the cable
company and create an absolute block on other stations having the
same access to viewers having the same ability to get their point of
view out ad does that cable broadcasting combination in your home

You need to think about the *distribution channels* and how a 50 
percent or above audience reach would be reflected in reality, rather 
than in some grandiose abstraction from the pages of neo-classical 

If the cap were 100 percent, as you would like, CBS, NBC, and ABC 
could literally own every channel or station in many communities 
across the U.S.  Otherwise, how could they reach that level?  Perhaps 
you want to drown out local voices, but it has been the regulatory 
tradition of our country to encourage diversity in broadcasting, 
rather than monopolistic ownership and control, much like there 
existed in the countries of the former Soviet Union.   

As Markey said in introducing his amendment on the floor of the
House, this issue concerns "one of the most fundamental changes which
has ever been comtomplated in the history of our country.

"The bill, as it is presented..., repeals for all intents and purposes 
all the cross-ownership rules, all of the ownership limitation 
rules, which have existed since the 1970s, the 1960s, to protect 
against single companies being able to control all of the media in 
individual communites and across the country. 

"In this bill it is made permissible for one company in your hometown 
to own the only newspaper, to own the cable system, to own every AM 
station, to own every FM station, to own the biggest television 
station and to own the biggest independent station, all in one 
community. " 

The House bill, after Markey's successful amendment,  increases the
national ownership cap to 35 percent.  This merely limits to 35
percent the percentage fo households nationwide that may be reached
by TV stations owned by a single network.

It is CPSR's view, evidently, that this is too high, and the cap 
should have been retained at 25 percent.  One can make a reasonable 
argument for 35 percent, but your counter-argument seems to miss the 
point entirely.

> >Some of the advanced information services
> >    could well become available only to affluent people or to
> >    institutions in privileged areas.
> Um, so what? Is cable television really a basic human right? Is a
> dedicated T-1 line? To the contrary, I claim that it would be
> wasteful and stupid to tax everyone in an attempt to make "advanced"
> services more heavily used. Let competition drive down prices for
> all; attempts to micromanage pricing will only interfere with the
> trends that are making these services better and cheaper for
> everyone. If we were to think of networks as food providers, then
> "advanced services" would be the caviar and lobster. 

This is simply untrue.  I suggest you read the legislation before you 
go spouting off all this "free market" dogma .  Your contention has 
absolutely nothing to do with the emerging realities of 

FYI, even the more restrictive of the two bills, H.R. 1555 contains 
the following:

"A plan adopted by the Commission and the States should ensure the 
continued viability of universal service maintaining quality services 
at just and reasonable rates.

"Such plan should recommend a definition of the nature and extent of 
the services encompassed within carriers' universal services 
obliagations.  Such plan should **seek to promote access to advanced 
telecommunications services and capabilities, and to promote 
reasonably comparable services for the general public in urban and 
rural areas, while maintaining just and reasonable rates."**

Here's another little bit from the Senate bill:  "The Commission and 
each State commission iwth regulatory juridiction over 
telecommunications services shall encourage the deployment on a 
reasonable and timely basis of *advanced telecommunications 
cabability to all Americans* (inclduing, in particular, elementary 
and secondary shhools and classrooms) by untilizing, in a manner 
consistent with the public interest, convenience, and necessity, 
price cap regualtion, regulatory forbearance, or other regulating 
methods that remove barrier to infrastructure investment."

In short, Glen, the bill endorses planning, industrial policy, and 
price regulation.  The bill, Glen, was written by Republican 
*deregulators.*  Now, you and George Gilder and your ilk just will 
not find the kind of "free market" you so ardently desire in telecom 
in this country.  What to do?  Moan and wail about amputation of the 
"invisible hand" or try to understand the issues accurately, and say 
something which reflects the industrial and political reality.

CPSR is arguing that the Snowe-Rockefeller-Kerrey amendment in the 
Senate bill ought to be included in the final legislation.  All it 
does is guarantee "reasonably comparable" rates for "health care 
providers for rural areas," and for "educational providers and 
libraries" rates that are "less than the amounts charged for similar 
services to other parties."  The rate will be determined by the 
Commission and the States based on what they "determine is 
appropriate and necessary to ensure affordabel access to and use of 
such telecommunications by such entities."

The thinking here is that our children are still the best resource we 
can invest in, and that the "advanced telecommunications services" 
that you pooh-pooh so loudly might just give kids an educational and 
learning tool which far exceeds the opportunity cost of providing it. 

What this also means Glen, is that a cable operator, cannot waltz
into a community, offer an off-the-shelf package with Net access,
500 channels, and interactive services bundled together at a rate
that schools and libraries cannot afford.   And, who knows, as you
so clearly point out, some of those schools may not see the 500
channel universe as an educational necessity, so they may want the
package unbundled.  

CPSR wants to ensure that can occur.

I don't know where your "cable TV" analogy is coming from.  No one 
suggested that cable programming ought to be regulated under Title II 
as a common carrier; certainly the CPSR telecom document did not.

OTOH, if cable delivers basic telephone service, then that will be 
regulated by the Commission under the common carrier rules.  

"A dedicated T-1 line?"  Well, I don't think anyone suggested that 
was "a basic human right."  That is not the definition of "universal 
service" in any case.  

An assignment for you Glen.  Check out the *definition* of universal 
service under either bill, H.R. 1555 or S. 652.  Perhaps then there 
will be some common ground in which we can discuss these things.  
Trying to debate out of ignorance is rarely productive and does not 
promote understanding.

When you figure out the way the U.S. defines universal service, then 
let's re-visit some of the issues.



Sender: •••@••.••• (Allan Bradley)

On Nov 8 1995 Glen Rapheal wrote:

>Some of the advanced information services
>    could well become available only to affluent people or to
>    institutions in privileged areas.

>>Um, so what? Is cable television really a basic human right? Is a dedicated
>>T-1 line? To the contrary, I claim that it would be wasteful and stupid to
>>tax everyone in an attempt to make "advanced" services more heavily used.
>>Let competition drive down prices for all; attempts to micromanage pricing
>>will only interfere with the trends that are making these services better
>>and cheaper for everyone. If we were to think of networks as food
>>providers, then "advanced services" would be the caviar and lobster. We
>>don't regulate food prices in order to ensure that no matter how
>>ridiculously "advanced" a food product is that product is available to
>>everyone; why regulate network prices with the same goal in mind? Note that
>>this applies to cable as a whole and especially to "non-Basic" service
>>levels. If Joe Smith can't afford HBO this month, I really don't care.
>>Neither should you.

The Box Matrix

There is a lot of sincere and genuine issues expressed by this forum and
other forums about the info-superhighway and the profound changes that
affect  our societal way of life.  I personally feel somewhat gratified
that at least a few people understand the importance of public ownership
with communications infrastructures given the impact of current legislation
in communications industry deregulation and what it may mean in the long
view.  Moreover, it shows the values of the masses still understand the
value of the individual, and perhaps, that is the highest honor .

Still, in my mind there is a haunting aspect.  It is the notion that the
battle of technology for the good may lose to the fervor of technology for
monetary gain because we can't seem to articulate the true
individualization of it all.  It isn't really an issue of whether it is
better for mankind to save a walk to the video store by plugging in the
household account PIN or similarly to save a walk to the library.  It goes
exponentially deeper.  These mediums are the seeds of how we communicate,
not only as a society, but as individuals.  And yet it seems almost too
complex to understand on a personal level what it all will mean to our
daily lives let alone to the public at large.

Communications technologies today need a public face -  not by the
profiteers, but by people who understand the significance - the people that
are involved in these forums.  It's not an issue of how more is better as
the American way, or how it couldn't hurt to define more entertainment fun
and convenience options, or necessarily advanced communications as the
foundation of an utopian philosopher king society.  We need a practical
technology face that goes to the core of who we all are both collectively
and individually, and how it represents the power we may have in defining
"who" that is.  Because ultimately it is all about information -
information about us and how it is defined, how it is used, and how it is

It is a two way street.  The information super-highway can be what is
represents - a highway we all can travel to get to know each other better
and possibly improve our worlds.  It also can become the "Box Matrix"
defining, through seemingly insignificant informational interactions our
impersonal individual social character.  It may not be today - it may not
be tomorrow, but sometimes options can turn into walls, and walls can turn
into a boxes - boxes we would all certainly lament tomorrow on the critical
missed opportunity to define today.

What does it matter if we want a tuna sandwhiches and a few dolphins are
killed? If Joe Smith can't get  HBO I don't care.  If Joe Smith can't
participate in the information age - I care.

Allan Bradley

ConsulMetrix, Inc.
Setting the Standards in Technology Consulting

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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