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Regulatory advice on cable and telecommunications are NATOA's specialties.

The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) plays a unique role in providing ongoing, specialized cable regulatory and telecommunications advice as an affiliate of NLC.

As a guiding instrument in making policy and regulatory decisions, NATOA relies on its annually reviewed and adopted Advocacy Platform. The detailed document addresses many telecommunications issues, including the following: the regulation of cable communications services; federal/local jurisdiction over telecommunications; rate regulation; channel placement, tiering and broadcast signal carriage; public, educational, and governmental (PEG) access; leased access; consumer protection and customer service; technical standards and issues; spectrum allocation; franchise fees; renewal of cable franchises; transfers and trafficking of cable systems; concentration of ownership and vertical integration; competition; multiple franchises; and, telco entry.

Throughout its Advocacy Platform NATOA realizes that telecommunications is critical to local infrastructure. Telecommunications systems, including cable communications, are the major vehicle for the rapid exchange and dissemination of information, and can help serve important local economic development, public information, and consumer protection goals, as well as facilitate local government service functions such as traffic management, transportation energy and education. Communications systems are a vital part of the local infrastructure, like transportation, sewer, and water systems. For local communities, the existence of an affordable locally responsive, modern communications infrastructure means efficient access to information, increased productivity, and new economic development opportunities.

Solutions to many major municipal problems typically carry a telecommunications component. Thus, the need for high quality telecommunications by and among local governments and all segments of the community must be addressed and included in local planning. A local government role in all telecommunications markets should be preserved to ensure that local needs are met, and that equitable and consistent requirements for fees, facilities and standards are established in the public interest.

NATOA supports the development of advance telecommmunications systems. These systems promise to promote new services and may also lead to competitive telecommunications markets in some areas (but not all). However, the unregulated development of these systems may also make it more difficult to assure that universal, adequate levels of basic services are available at affordable rates; to ensure that society is not divided between the information-rich and information-poor, and, to ensure that the general public, educators and government have genuine and adequate opportunities to speak and to receive information from a variety of sources via these advanced telecommunications systems.

Additionally, many of these advanced telecommunications systems will use public rights-of-way and other public property that the public pays to obtain and to maintain. There is a significant risk that the cost of up-grading existing telephone and cable systems to provide advanced telecommunications services will be subsidized directly and indirectly by those who may not benefit from those up-grades, absent government intervention.

In order to, among other things protect the public and ensure that just compensation is made for use of the public's property, public policy should ensure: (1) that these advanced telecommunications systems are open to all and are affordable; (2) that these advanced telecommunications systems, individually or collectively, can serve all; (3) that a true marketplace of ideas is fostered by ensuring that information concerning public, educational and governmental affairs can be received and distributed at no or low cost through these advanced telecommunications systems; and (4) that the facilities, equipment and services required to support public, educational and governmental uses are provided as part of these telecommunications systems. Because needs and systems are likely to vary from community to community, local government must play a central role in determining how these public benefits ought to be provided, and in enforcing systems' obligations. Reliance primarily on the federal government or centralized planning is not likely to be an effective or efficient way to protect the public interest; a genuine federal-local partnership is required.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of NATOA's 1993-94 Advocacy Platform, please contact NATOA in the NLC Center for Member Programs at (202) 626-3160.
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Title Annotation:National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors
Author:Winsky, Renee
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 30, 1993
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