No Impact Seen Yet From 'Telco '-Information Ruling

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WASHINGTON--A federal judge's ruling allowing the nation's regional telephone companies to offer information services, while a major shift in telecommunications policy, is unlikely to have an immediate impact on education, observers say.

In late July, U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene issued a ruling that lifted a restriction on the regional Bell operating companies, or "telcos," that was part of the consent decree that governs the divestiture of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.

Under the ruling, the telcos could offer home shopping and such services to schools as computerized "voice mail."

But Judge Greene's recent decision is unlikely to affect consumers immediately, observers say, because newspaper publishers and other providers of information services are likely to appeal, arguing that the ubiquitous telephone gives the telcos an unfair advantage in the market.

Judge Greene himself recognized that potential, writing in his opinion that "the most probable consequences [of the ruling] ... will be elimination of competition from that market."

Of more immediate concern to educators is a measure now moving through the Congress that would encourage the telcos to complete the wiring of the nation with fiber-optic cable by 2015.

The "communications and competitiveness and infrastructure modernization act of 1991," sponsored by Senator Conrad Burns, Democrat of Montana, offers the telcos the right to create programming for the fiber-optic system once it is completed.

The import of such telecommunications policies, however, reaches beyond the ambitions of the telcos, according to participants at meetings held this summer by the Washington-based EDSAT Institute.

While EDSAT is focusing on a national telecommunications organization to oversee satellite-based distance-learning programs, it must also concern itself with integrating related technologies, they said.

"We're not in competition with the telcos or the cable companies," said Jack D. Foster, an EDSAT consultant. "But we can't afford to ignore the ground-based distribution system."--P.W.

Vol. 11, Issue 01, Page 21

Published in Print: September 4, 1991, as No Impact Seen Yet From 'Telco '-Information Ruling
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