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Look for chances to eliminate needless regulation.

I `doubt any of you consider facsimile services in need of regulation.

This hasn't deterred the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission from issuing an "order initiating a generic investigation into fax for hire."

They define fax services available to the public for hire as "not only the pay fax service but also over-thecounter fax services. The principal difference between the two is that the pay fax machine is a self-service unit (i.e. operated by the end-user), while the over the counter fax machine is operated for pay by on on-site employee at the end-user's request."

The last time ! looked, every drug store, instant printer, copy duplicating shop, secretarial service and strip mail in the country offered fax services. When I was in San Diego recently, in a residential neighborhood, I had a choice of several locations within a few blocks for sending a fax. They were all competing aggressively on service and price (to within 5 cents a page).

It's the same in Minnesota and most other areas. Undaunted, however, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will examine this industry. Some of the specific issues they will study are "the extent to which fax for hire is currently being provided in the state, identifying these providers by business name and address, whether the Commission should exert jurisdiction over fax services provided to the public for hire, whether, if the Commission exerts jurisdiction over fax-forhire services, regulation of the services and their providers is warranted and whether competition exists in the fax for hire market and the projected market trend."

In my most charitable language I would term this effort some kind of a solution looking for a problem.

I doubt the commission is serious about actually regulating over-thecounter fax. They are probably concerned how pay fax services involve regulated telephone rates and if this whole area might be defined as telephone service under Minnesota statutes that define "telephone services" far too broadly. But their order doesn't limit that prospect and its inclusion in this context only raises the specter of unneeded, unbelievable regulation.

The Public Utilities Commission in Minnesota is probably typical of the average public utilities commission in the United States. A few state commissions are still fighting to keep out alternative competitive access providers or any other competitive service that poses a threat, as they view it, to the monopoly local exchange company.

A few states have finally recognized that competition provides customers a superior product and price to regulation and have moved aggressively in that direction. They are aware of the inexorable movement to technology and competition, in this country and throughout the world, examples of which surface daily.

The remainder of state commissions, and the majority, are like Minnesota. They recognize a revolution is occurring in telecomm technology but their first priority, in my opinion, is to keep residential rates low even if business rates and regulation must subsidize them.

This is an attitude that reminds me of the old cliche "one step forward and two steps backward." The rest of the world is waking up and the U.S. is still dragging its feet in unnecessary regulation.

Examples abound. In Japan,

The Telecom Tribune, in its June issue, highlighted the intensified competition in the portable telephone market.

In Europe, the Spring 1992 issue of Telecoms Strategy Update, distributed by Analysys Ltd., based in Cambridge, U.K., reported, "Starting in June, the European commission is to conduct a wide-ranging review of the effectiveness of its telecoms policy in creating an open and competitive market in what is one of the most important strategic sectors of the European economy. The Review will consider how future regulation of telecoms can be targeted, both to enable Europe's users to compete effectively in world markets, and to ensure that theEuropean telecoms sector retains its leading position relative to the USA and Japan."

And we wonder why this country is losing jobs to foreign competition. Unneeded, excessive regulation is equally onerous in telecommunications as it is in any other industry.

Wireless systems of all types and designs are shaking the telecommunications industry to its core and represent the most serious threat to date to the local service monopoly. There is even a new acronym in our industry: WPBX (wireless private branch exchange).

In the fax world, GammaLink, Sunnyvale, Calif., the originator of the PC-to-fax industry, announced last month new fax server software for computer-based facsimile.

Faced with these divergent trends, them. telecomm regulatory affairs, particularly at the state level. There's a gold mine of opportunity there for managers to enhance their image and, most importantly, achieve bottom-line dollar savings for their companies.

It's always been incredulous to me ehy large users are so ineffective in telecomm regulatory affairs, particulary at the state level. There's a gold mine of opportunity there for managers to enhance their image and, most importantly, achieve bottom-line dollar savings for their companies.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Datacomm User; telecommunications industry
Author:Blegen, August
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:814
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