A newsletter covering regulatory reform efforts in Washington and across America, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 300 Eye Street NE, Suite #3, Washington, D.C. 20001, (202) 507-6398, Fax (301) 498-1301.
Issue #24 * August 18, 1995 * David A. Ridenour, Editor
Modest TeleCom Reform Could be Watered-Down Further in Conference. On August 4, the House approved a modest telecommunications bill (H.R. 1555) in a 305-117 vote, paving the way for the first overhaul of telecommunications policy since Congress approved the Communications Act in 1934. But there are significant differences between the House-approved telecommunications bill and a weaker Senate bill (S. 652), approved in June. House and Senate conferees are expected to take up the TeleCom bill when they return from recess in early September. The following outlines some of the key differences between the two bills:
H.R. 1555 would extend current federal laws governing the distribution of "obscene" materials to materials transmitted by computer. It would also make the transmission of "indecent" materials to minors a federal crime. Although Internet access providers would be permitted to restrict access to obscene or otherwise objectionable materials, these companies would incur no legal responsibility for materials loaded onto the Internet by users of its services.
Long Distance Services:
H.R. 1555 would permit a Baby Bell to enter the long distance market in a state, but only after the FCC determines that the company has complied with the bill's network sharing requirements (under which the Bells are required to sell access to their local networks to such long distance carriers as AT&T at a discount). To offer service in a state, a Baby Bell would have to have a competitor in at least one community in the state. It would also be required to set-up a separate subsidiary for long distance services but only for the first 18 months.
H.R. 1555 includes a provision requiring television manufacturers to insert into their products "V-chips," devices parents could use to screen what their children view on television. The provision would also establish voluntary rating guidelines to be developed by the FCC, should broadcasters fail to develop their own rating systems.
Local Telephone Services:
H.R. 1555 would give local phone companies six months to negotiate agreements to allow competitors access to their networks. Small companies would be exempt from these requirements unless state authorities determined otherwise.
S. 652 would make it a crime for one person to "harass" another with objectionable materials using the Internet, faxes or other telecommunications devices. It would outlaw computer transmissions of "indecent" materials to children and obscene materials to anyone. It would also establish penalties of up to $100,000 in fines and two years in jail for those found in violation of the law.
Long Distance Services:
S. 652 would also permit a Baby Bell to enter the long distance market in a state after it has complied with the bill's network sharing requirements. But the bill would also require that the FCC first determine that permitting the Bell to enter into the long distance market would be in the public interest. It would also require the Bells to establish permanent, separate subsidiaries to offer long distance.
S. 652 also includes a provision requiring television manufacturers to insert the controversial "V-chips" into their products. It would also establish rules rather than guidelines for program rating to be developed by a presidential commission.
Local Telephone Services:
S. 652 would give local phone companies 160 days to negotiate agreements to allow competitors access to their networks. Small companies would only be exempt from these requirements by state or FCC action.
Send Message to Senators Who Stymied Regulatory Reform, Regulatory Relief Advocates Say:
The August recess is a good time to send a message to Senators who stymied efforts for regulatory reform by either voting for weakening amendments to the Comprehensive Regulatory Reform Act, S. 343, and failing to vote for cloture. Senators who were considered swing voters on regulatory reform should be given particular attention while they are in their home states, according to regulatory relief advocates. Among those they say are particularly worthy of grassroots heat: Charles Robb (VA) and Max Baucus (MT).
Grassroots Group Takes Up Cause of Fired "Whistle Blower:"
Don Amador, President of the Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Coalition, an alliance of wise-use activists, is calling for a congressional hearing on the firing of Michael Cook, a 26-year veteran and Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) planner for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). It seems Mr. Cook was fired shortly after uncovering evidence of significant mismanagement by the USFS of OHV funds. More than $68,000 is said to be involved. Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) has vowed to investigate the case further and take appropriate action. For more information, media may contact Don Amador at (510)754-1254.
Is the Weather Hot Enough For You? For Some, OSHA Makes It Hotter:
Government officials in Chicago and other localities have struggled this summer to prevent the public from suffering from heat-related health problems. But thanks to OSHA's Electrical Protective Equipment Rule (29CFR 1910.269), the government exacerbates heat risk for electrical workers. According to July 27 testimony before the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee, electrical workers have been hospitalized from heat exhaustion this summer because OSHA essentially mandates that all electrical workers exposed to 50 volts or more wear clothing made from Nomex or Kevlar, materials which retain heat, do not breathe and are available only with long-sleeves. Why? OSHA seeks to protect workers from burns. But testimony indicates that sparks go directly through the Nomex material and burn the skin, while cotton clothing is safer. As Gary A. Whitener, General Manager of the Rutherford (N.C.) Electric Membership Corporation told the Subcommittee: "We are having tremendous problems with linemen overheating... This is a very dangerous situation, caused by OSHA officials writing regulations without using common sense and without any practical experience in the industries involved. I know that the raw numbers of engineering test data can justify a new regulation in the mind of the OSHA Committee, but only by testing an item in the field can true results be determined." The basic gear an electric lineman needs weighs 55 pounds. Unless OSHA officials are willing to spend a 95-degree afternoon on a pole with 55 pounds of gear while dressed in a non-breathable long-sleeved outfit, it might be productive (not to mention humanitarian) for them to have a chat with hospitalized electrical workers in North Carolina about the usefulness of this particular rule.
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©1995, The National Center for Public Policy Research. Coverage of meetings, activities or statements in The Relief Report does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Excerpts may be reprinted provided that original source is credited.
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