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UTC Meeting Held in Nation's Capital.

"This is an inspirational city ... this is the center of government . . . the only business of this community. Sometimes it's good government and sometimes it's not quite so good, but it is our government and we make it. This is the home of the FCC and a growing body of telecommunications businesses," said Edward Mitchell, president of Potomac Electric and Power Company, as he welcomed members of the Utilities Telecommunications Council (UTC) to the 36th annual meeting of the organization.

Held in mid-June in Washington, DC, UTC members spent four days attempting to learn more about the ways recent industry changes would affect utilit companies' telecommunications systems. Some 950 people, including UTC members, spouses, guests and vendors, descended on the Washington Hilton Hotel for the meeting that included 85 companies exhibiting telecommunications products and services.

The meeting was called to order by Bob Southworth (Bossier Rural Electric Membership), president of UTC, who then turned the podium over to Barry Sakemiller (Delmarva Power & Light), who introduced the UTC officers and meeting committee.

During his welcoming remarks, Mitchell called the deregulation of telecommunications a "mixed bag," saying there are many areas in this country where the deregulation concept is being blindly applied. He said, "Where there is competition, deregulation is working. But where there is no competition we better be very careful about how strongly we push this concept of deregulation. There are those in the current administration who are committed to deregulation regardless of the consequences."

Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon, an advocate of deregulation and chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee which handles communications, was the UTC keynote speaker. The senator spoke about telephone and cable legislation, noting that telephone legislation pertaining to access fees died when the FCC delayed access charges.

Packwood said the US has historically used subsidies to make basic services affordable. He said, "By and large in this country, we have followed a philosophy, in terms of basic services, of using wealthier areas or more prosperous services to pay for those who can't pay for themselves." He noted that highways and waterways are handled in a similar manner.

Packwood said he wasn't certain how the access charge issue would turn out, but felt that there would be no special fees levied against those who bypass the local telephone loop. "I am reasonably sure, on so-called bypass, that the use of communications systems for monitoring of internal house business will be exempt from legislation . . . so long as it is used for internal business," he said. "It would be another matter if system capacity were leased to the public . . . that would be a different situation."

What Congress intends to do about bypass in the "genuine communications" sense is as yet unresolved, Packwood reported. "By this by-pass I mean businesses throughout the nation deciding they are going to have their own internal communications system and not use the normal public communication system at all. My guess is, if you are going to do that, and if we are going to continue to subsidize certain rural residential systems, then you will probably end up bearing part of the cost of that subsidy."

Packwood also discussed cable legislation, saying there is a greater and greater tendency toward federal preemption of communication. "Years ago we decided we were going to have federal preemption. Local governments cannot regulate radio and television as to what they can advertise and broadcast. There are some people who think the federal government shouldn't be able to either. I happen to be one of those."

A general move away from cable regulation was noted by Packwood. "The cable bill passed in the Senate (S 66) a year ago is now being worked on in the House of Representatives (HR 1403)," he said. "It has been held up because of disagreement between cable operators and the cities as to whether or not there will be a limit on how much the cities can charge for a franchise to operate a cable system. Some cities look at cable as a cash cow . . . although I'm not sure that wired cable for home communications, for entertainment, has a great future. Where it does have a great future though, is in two-way communications and the transmission of data. Bringing us to an interesting issue involving the transmission of data.

"In the cable bill that passed the Senate," Packwood noted, "it was decided that the transmission of data on cable would be unregulated even though the telephone companies are regulated. If the local public-utility commissions found that cable even started to approach the point of becoming competitive with the telephone companies, then the telephone companies would also be deregulated for the transmission of data."

Packwood said the telephone companies argued for the regulation of data communications by cable and urged that regulation for both cable operations and telephone companies be removed only when it was decided at the federal level that there was competition.

Other sessions during the UTC meeting included an FCC staff panel (see pages 94 and 95), a panel on bypass systems, a session on leased-telephone circuit trouble reporting systems, and a session on land-mobile and microwave licensing.

During the meeting the following officers were elected to serve through June 1985: Charles Blood (Union Electric), president; Charles Boyton (Mountain Fuel Supply), vice president; and Gilbert Archuleta (Denver Board of Water Commissioners), secretary-treasurer.

Next year's annual meeting will be held June 16 through 21 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1984
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