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Poll Finds Educators Endorse Creation of Fiber-Optic System

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WASHINGTON--Providing new ammunition for the nation's telephone companies in their quest to revise federal laws to gain access to the lucrative video programming market, a national polling organization reports that educators it surveyed endorse the establishment of a nationwide fiber-optic-based telecommunications system.

The Roper Organization, a New York-based market-research firm, surveyed 201 education policymakers and an equal number of health-care policymakers in the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas in December and January to compile the survey.

The results, released here last week, show that 79 percent of the educators surveyed support legislation to create such a network and that 84 percent think telephone companies should be allowed to compete with cable operators in the video programming market.

Federal law now bars telephone companies from offering video programming over their networks. Cable-television companies, which now control that market, oppose changing the law.

"These are the people whose opinions count'' in making effective policy, Harry W. O'Neill, the Roper organization's vice chairman, said of the educators polled.

Among the educators surveyed, the firm said, were 34 elementary- and 32 secondary-school policymakers and 60 elementary- and secondary-school administrators.

The survey was commissioned by çôå Telephone Operations, a major player in the regulatory battle.

The regional telephone companies, or "telcos,'' argue that they need access to programming services now dominated by the cable companies in order to pay for rewiring the nation with the high-speed, high-fidelity cables. They have set up pilot projects at schools to demonstrate the services they would like to provide.

Interest in School Market

Larry J. Sparrow, the president of GTE West, the largest of the GTE companies, conceded at the press conference that interest among the telcos in marketing to schools has grown markedly during the period that they have been lobbying for access to the video market.

But he said that pilot school projects, such as one GTE is conducting in Cerritos, Calif., consist of sophisticated new services coincidentally developed during the lobbying effort.

Previously, he added, "we really did not have something to put into the classroom.''

Mr. Sparrow's company, along with a number of other telcos, are lobbying for legislation such as S 1200, a bill sponsored by Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, that would allow the telcos to enter the video market if they agreed to meet a deadline for wiring the nation with fiber-optic cable.

The bill, he said, "would provide us with the avenue to do what is needed.''

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