Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Court Allows "Baby Bells' to Expand Services

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Court Allows "Baby Bells' to Expand Services

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for the nation's seven regional telephone companies to enter the electronic information services business, though both the judiciary and Congress could erect future roadblocks.

The court, without comment, rejected an emergency request from the American Newspaper Publishers Association that sought to bar the so-called Baby Bell companies from starting to provide such services.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor did not participate in the case, but did not say why. The court's brief order made it appear that the court's newest member, Justice Clarence Thomas, had participated in denying the request.

The request had been made to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who referred it to the full court.

The prospective information services range from using telephone lines to provide news reports, sports scores and stock quotes to the longterm storage of business and medical records.

Various businesses, including newspapers, already are in the business of providing some of those computerized services over the Bell companies'

telephone lines.

The issue may not yet be settled, depending upon what Congress does and further action in the courts. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., has introduced the Telecommunications Act of 1991, which would require the Bell companies to relinquish their monopolies on local phone service before being allowed to offer informational services.

"The action by the court today makes it imperative that Congress pass the Cooper bill to prevent the regional Bell telephone companies from strangling competition in the vital field of information services and threatening the privacy of everyone who owns a telephone," said newspaper association President Cathleen Black. "The American public, consumers and telephone users deserve no less."

When U.S. District Judge Harold Greene in Washington supervised the breaking up of the American Telephone &Telegraph Co. …

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