By Neil Munro
Online Smut: Free-speech advocates were shut out of a White House meeting, where industry leaders promised to step up efforts to help parents filter out online smut. The meeting was called July 16 by President Bill Clinton, following the Supreme Court's rejection of the Communications Decency Act.
Wiretapping: After many months of disputes with the FBI, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association has asked the Federal Communications Commission to intervene. Following the passage of the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, FBI and industry officials have been trying to devise rules that would allow the FBI to quickly wiretap criminals using cell phones. Industry officials are trying to minimize modification costs and liability risks.
Cell Phones: The cell phone industry is also appealing to the FCC to intervene into local disputes over cell phone antenna sites. Because the FCC has failed to act, local governments are delaying construction of 226 antennas, according to a July 11 letter sent to FCC chairman Reed Hundt by CTIA president Thomas Wheeler.
Privacy: Web sites that collect personal data from children are engaging in illegal deceptive practices unless they get approval from the children's parents, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC statement, dated July 16, also threatened legal action in the future; "[FTC] staff may recommend law enforcement proceedings against marketers who engage in deceptive information practices, or who unfairly use personally identifiable information collected from children."
Taxes: There are some significant goodies for the high-tech industry in the emerging tax cut plan being worked out by Congress and the White House. These presents include a rollback in capital gains taxes and the inclusion of the software industry in a long-standing tax break that has allowed the movie industry to cut its taxes on profits from exports. If approved, this extension could save the software industry several hundred million dollars per year. However, these measures may not survive the negotiations between the White House, Congress and numerous interest groups.
Phone Competition: Outgoing FCC Chairman Reed Hundt suggested July 17 that he may convene an FCC task force to recommend ways to open up local phone markets. His suggestion follows months of legal wrangling between phone companies and pressure from Congress for action.