Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Telephone Companies Don't Want to Do the News

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Telephone Companies Don't Want to Do the News

Article excerpt

The American Newspaper Publishers Association recently issued its position on proposals for the construction of a nationwide fiber-optic-based telephone network and the effect of new communications technology on the newspaper industry.

The ANPA's assessment was that ". . . Consumers may be better served by an open and diverse network that fosters competition and provides a rich mixture of services and functionality."

Unfortunately, the ANPA proposes to reach this goal without the involvement of the nation's telephone companies. the ANPA's concerns stem from some basic misunderstandings about the telephone companies' role in the proposed competitive environment and the use of fiber optics.

Telephone companies, such as GTE, are seeking congressional changes to the Cable Act of 1984, which prohibits them from providing video programming services in their operating areas. The telephone companies are seeking these changes to enable them to deliver services that will drive the more rapid deployment of an advanced telecommunications infrastructure, the national, public fiber-optic switched network.

The ANPA assumption is that telephone company entry into video programming would drive all other programmers out of business. This is an unfounded assumption given the rapid influx of competition into the existing communications business.

If telephone companies are experiencing the entry of competition in their core business, how could they be expected to drive out entrenched competitors such as cable operators?

In fact, legislation pending now before Congress on this issue is designed to protect against this type of monopoly replacement. The bill is called the "Communications Competitiveness and Infrastructure Modernization Act of 1991." It is being considered by committees in both the House and Senate.

More consumer choice

Telephone company provision of advanced visual communications services will provide consumers with more service choices and personal control over the services they choose.

Just as the interstate highway system gave Americans the freedom to go where they wanted -- not just where the train, bus and airline companies wanted to take them -- the fiber-optic network will give Americans more freedom to choose which news and information they want to access.

The network will allow much more information to be delivered into American homes than is now available with newspaper delivery and broadcast and cable programming, and it will be available at all hours, whenever the consumer wants it.

The fiber network will be available for any business to offer its programming and services to customers. Control of those programs and services will remain with the individual business, just as the telephone companies do not control what businesses and individuals do over the public switched telephone network today.

The legislation Congress is considering provides the added protection of limiting telephone companies to the use of only 25% of the fiber network for their own video packaging that must be offered through a separate subsidiary.

What's in it

for media?

The newspaper's basic product is information -- from articles and advertising presented in a printed package. GTE Telephone Iperatios does not want to replace the media in the news-gathering process; we view newspapers and other media as customers.

The telephone companies want to provide the conduit for newspapers to deliver their product to subscribers through fiber optics. This will provide consumers with more choices and the "rich mixture of services and functionality" referred to in the ANPA's conclusion.

As technology has evolved, so has the newspaper industry. However, the basic form of delivery -- on paper -- has remained the same. As newspapers continue to experience competition from alternative information-delivery systems, fiber-optic networks offer them the opportunity for the "printed" word to be delivered by video. …

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