Brave New WorldYour "Highways of the Future" series (July...


August 04, 1993

Brave New World

Your "Highways of the Future" series (July 26-28) was quite informative.

The discussion on "universal access" implies that provision of telecommunications service in particular (and, really, utility service in general) is imposed in some way artificially. In other words, big government forces business to perform a service that it would otherwise not do.

Indeed, the author misquotes the "federal law" (namely, the Communications Act, which still governs all telecommunications in the U.S.). The word is not "access" but "service." The Congress mandated that all providers of telephone service must supply such service to those who want it.

The history of American utility regulation stems from the 19th century, when state and local officials struck a bargain with utility providers.

Public officials, in effect, gave the providers a monopoly in their service area, while providers agreed to extend service to any and all customers within that area.

Complementing this agreement then was the realization that having more than one water company, gas company, etc. made no economic sense, a situation which persists to the present.

While telecommunications may have the potential to depart from this monopoly model, the statistics provided belie this assumption: Fewer than 5 percent of all possible users actually use cellular telephones, while 93 percent use wire-based telephones connected to the local network.

In other words, the monopoly in local service continues, and with it the obligations of the Communications Act. Two troubling items emerge: Local phone companies would like to have this obligation disappear, and cable television companies don't want it imposed.

The important questions needed to be asked -- and answered by providers and regulators -- are:

* What will be the nature of the future telecommunication provider; will it be based upon the current form of the local telephone service provider (with numerous service obligations) or that of the cable television service provider (with virtually none)?

* If "universal service" obligations continue, what will be the form of this service? Will a new high-technology form of "dial tone" emerge for all customers?

The answers will have a crucial impact on the course of these highways of the future.

John J. McGoldrick


Thanks to Schaefer

Now that the glow (and afterglow) of the All-Star Game has somewhat receded, I think it is appropriate to reflect on at least one aspect of the festivities.

For several weeks, Baltimore was the focus and the darling of local, national and international media. Story after story fed us details of the beauty of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and told us what a fantastic attraction Baltimore has with the Inner Harbor, complete with the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.

Again and again, we were regaled with the information that, because of these attractions, Baltimore was the deserved beneficiary of a week-long, $30 million spending spree.

The only thing missing from this orgy of superlatives was even the slightest recognition of the moving force behind most of Baltimore's renaissance, including the Inner Harbor and OPACY.

As much as he's "bashed" for every perceived mis-step, would it have been too much to give at least a nod of acknowledgment and thanks to Gov. William Donald Schaefer?

Robert M. Caldwell


Southern Passion

In his July 28 column, Garry Wills saluted Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun D-Ill. because she "stood up and challenged the prejudice behind" a routine renewal by the United Daughters of the Confederacy of the patent for their symbol.

The Confederate flag is the symbol in question. Again, your newspaper has published an opinion that is clearly predicated upon a simplistic distortion of our antebellum history.

Mr. Wills describes the Confederacy as a government that went into secession "in order to defend slavery."

Beginning in 1816, a federal tariff was continuously imposed by Congress to protect and enrich the textile industry of the North at the expense of an export-based economy in the South.

In truth, the states that seceded were far longer and far more directly motivated by a desire to escape the effects of the federal tariff than by the threat to the institution of slavery.

Both Moseley-Braun and Wills would have us believe that the Union's pursuit of the Civil War was tantamount to a crusade for emancipation.

If so, why did no single Northern state boycott cotton to demonstrate opposition to slavery during the pre-war years?

Why was the war not preceded by efforts in Congress to exchange a repeal of the tariff for an abolition of slavery?

And again, why did Congress forgo any attempt to achieve emancipation by means of tendering financial compensation to slaveholders in the South?

Had moral indignation about slavery been widespread in the North, at least some one of these events would surely have occurred.

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