Competition in cable TV won't helpReaders should concern...

the Forum

August 03, 1992

Competition in cable TV won't help

Readers should concern themselves with the implications of the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision allowing local telephone companies into the cable television field. The FCC has allowed another fox into the chicken coop, as the potential for abuse by yet another participant in this industry is great.

For years, numerous media companies have been predicting a communications revolution, where households could access a panoply of information services (including home banking or any number of data bases). There are three factors that should be considered as this decision comes into effect.

* The most recent statistics I've seen indicate that while a cable TV system is available to 90 percent of all U.S. households, only 54 percent subscribe to even basic service.

* In the mid-1980s, several media companies offered cable-based information services to residential customers on an experimental basis and failed miserably, losing tens of millions of dollars in the process.

* Although 20 million homes have personal computers, only 1 million have signed up for a service such as "Prodigy" or "Compuserve." In sum, one should treat predictions of this expanding information services market with a lot of skepticism.

Competition has been the rallying cry of many regulatory bodies (the FCC among them) for over a decade. Competition in the cable TV market will mean hardly anything to local residents. They still will deal with only two providers (one for telephone and one for cable TV) or only one, if local phone companies involve themselves in cable business.

The ultimate question is who pays for the upgrading of the telephone network. Why should customers pay for another system to provide numerous information services when all they want is a telephone dial tone?

As competition is not the panacea it has been made out to be, the need for regulatory oversight will remain. It may even grow stronger.

ohn McGoldrick

Towson

Young Samaritans' story is contrast to teen-age horror tale

This is a little story. You won't find it on the front page among the stories reporting the 17-year-old arrested for murder or the 13- and 14-year-old drug dealers or the teen-age drunk drivers. Rather, it is a story about local teen-agers who tried to be old-fashioned Good Samaritans and what happened to them.

On a Friday night, last July 24, our son, Alex, 16, was driving on Paper Mill Road from Cockeysville toward Phoenix in Baltimore County. His friend, Dan, 15, rode with him. Behind them, their friends, Keith and Brian, both 16, followed at some distance in a separate vehicle.

Alex and Dan came upon an accident that apparently had happened only minutes before. A car had hit a tree and was completely smashed. Alarmed by the sight of the car, they decided to stop and offer assistance.

Miraculously, the driver was conscious and appeared to be unharmed. They offered to call the police or give him a ride. He insisted that a ride was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the boys noticed a car approaching them traveling at a high rate of speed. The car swerved, the driver lost control and slammed on the brakes.

Alex saw the car coming toward them and dove out of the way. Dan also tried to escape the car's path but the car caught his leg and pinned him against the tree.

The driver, a middle-aged man, and his female companion sat stunned, doing nothing, while Dan banged on the hood and Alex banged on a window of the car, yelling for the driver to back up to free Dan's leg. Finally, the man backed up but quickly sped away into the darkness.

During this time, Keith and Brian arrived and the three boys carried Dan to Alex's truck. A lady with a car phone called the police and an ambulance, and the boys called Dan's parents.

The boys berated themselves for not getting the tag number but indicated their top priority was to help Dan. They described the car as a late model, dark-colored, expensive automobile, probably a Mercedes.

It took about 15 minutes for an ambulance and the police to arrive. By this time, Dan was in shock and a great deal of pain. He was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Towson. He had two fractures, and the hospital told his parents he would have to stay for a few days of treatment until the swelling in his leg went down enough to accommodate a hard cast. Then, after wearing the cast for six or eight weeks, he will require some rigorous physical therapy.

It is difficult to guess what "Mr. Mercedes" was thinking as he sped off into the night. Being a stranger to the young men, he could not have counted on the fact that three of the four boys have been close personal friends and neighbors since they were babies and would have done anything to help each other first, allowing "Mr. Mercedes" to escape.

Certainly he could not have known that these boys had supported each other through some family tragedies as well as the normal difficulties of adolescence and, consequently, had a strong commitment to each other.

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