Gore attacks telecom deregulation

Vice President Al Gore has ratcheted up criticism of telecommunications deregulation bills passed in both the House and Senate, claiming the proposals represent a giveaway to America’s largest corporations.

Gore, in a tough speech Sept. 12 before a group of global telecommunications execs here, echoed a veto threat registered earlier by President Clinton. “Instead of being a commitment to the future, these bills – especially the House bill – represent a contract with a hundred companies,” said Gore. “The highest bidders, not the highest principles, have set the bar.

“Instead of promoting investment and competition, it (the legislation) promotes mergers and concentration of power,” Gore continued.

Gore singled out for criticism the House bill’s elimination of newspaper/TV cross-ownership regs, the proviso lifting cable TV price limits and the plan to end restrictions on the number of radio stations a company may own.

“I urge Congress to keep telecommunications a nonpartisan issue,” Gore said. “Don’t look upon it as an opportunity to merely grab and display trophies for financial supporters and contributors. Support and strengthen our world leadership and the well-being of hundreds of companies by presenting the president a reform bill he can sign.”

The dereg bills would radically alter 61 years of communications law, and are designed to free up competition between broadcast, cable, local telephone and long distance providers.

The bills would lift FCC price caps on the enhanced basic tier of cable TV service, allow telephone company entry into the cable TV business, lift from 25% to 35% the national TV audience reach of individual broadcasters, and eliminate all radio ownership caps.

A House-Senate conference committee will soon be selected to resolve differences in the two bills. The resulting legislation will then be sent to both houses for a final vote before being forwarded to President Clinton.

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