Continuing coverage of recent WT stories
ye on Telecom Reform
The House Commerce Committee's new telecom reform bill gives cable TV companies a grab bag of deregulatory gifts that will help them go toe-to-toe against the seven horsemen of the 1984 AT&T breakup (WT, April 13).
The bill is more deregulatory than the Senate's draft reform bill. For example, many of the House bill's regulations lapse after five years.
The telecom bill is accompanied by several other measures that would end limits on foreign ownership of radio and TV stations and allow the utilities to provide telecom services. These measures may win approval from the House, but could not be packaged with the core telecom bill without fracturing its coalition of supporters, which includes some prominent Democrats, such as former commerce committee chairman John Dingell.
The delicacy of the coalition is shown by Rep. Henry Hyde, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, who is pushing an alternative telecom bill that gives the Justice Department additional authority to limit the Bells and promote telecom competition. The Commerce Committee bill limits the Justice Department to trust-busting.
FAA Still Flying With Loral
Loral Corp. seems to have salvaged its Federal Aviation Administration contract to automate the nation's air traffic control system by replacing the project's managing team and cutting costs. On April 27, the FAA announced a new $898 million contract to buy 3,000 new air traffic control workstations from Loral.
After inheriting the FAA contract from IBM Federal Systems, which Loral bought last year for $1.5 billion, Loral faced criticism for cost overruns and lagging technology (WT, April 21, 1994). Congress has been pressuring the aviation agency to clean up the program and there was talk of scrapping the Loral-led program altogether.
This recent award is the first sign Loral will retain control of the automation project, which will replace the computer hardware, software and related equipment used by air traffic controllers.
The Next Generation of Warfare
21st century cyberspace warfare, or information warfare, has top officials on edge because they fear that the nation's information networks are vulnerable to hacker attacks sponsored by terrorists or foreign states (WT, Dec. 22)
"This is a very important subject... which we don't really have a crisp answer to," said John Deutch, the new director of central intelligence, at a confirmation hearing April 26 before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. "Understanding that we have a vulnerability and knowing what to do about it -- this is whether you're in the defense business or the banking business -- are two different things," Deutch told Republican Sen. Connie Mack at the hearing.
Bell Atlantic VOD on Hold
The information hypeway has claimed another victim. Bell Atlantic recently announced that its planned video-on-demand service has been put on hold indefinitely. More than a year ago, Bell Atlantic promised that its heavily hyped, interactive, multimedia, video-on-demand service known as Stargazer would be commercially available to customers by early 1995 (WT, April 7, 1994). The Baby Bell blamed the swift pace of technological change for its decision to delay deployment of its interactive network, easily the most publicized video venture of any Baby Bell. Executives at Bell Atlantic say they remain committed to offering video on demand, and have asked the Federal Communications Commission to indefinitely suspend its video dial tone applications while the company reassess its interactive strategy.
The Scoop on Technology Spending
The states are angling for a larger role in federal science and technology spending, prompting the creation of an independent task force by the National Governors Association and a government panel headed by Mary Good, the Commerce Department's technology chief.
In late July, the independent Federal-State Task Force is expected to recommend an increased role for the states in a report to Jack Gibbons, the White House Science Advisor. Although Congress controls the purse strings for the $75 billion spending on science and technology each year, the administration could increase the states' influence by writing new regulations and by creating advisory panels.