Communications bill passes

Communications bill passes

The House of Representatives handily approved a measure to grant telephone, cable and broadcasting industries almost unlimited license to compete in each other`s markets. The vote -- 305 to 117 -- has a margin wide enough to override a presidential veto. Last month, the Senate passed a far less deregulatory version by a vote of 81 to 18. The regional Bell telephone companies won the bill`s most hotly lobbied issue: securing approval to enter the long-distance market without first facing effective competition in their own markets. The long-distance carriers were opposed because they say the measure gives the regional Bells an unfair competitive advantage. Consumer groups warn that telephone rates will rise because of that provision. Implications for cable TV include lifting of federal controls on cable-TV prices. It will be harder for customers to contest rates, and local telephone companies are now free to buy local cable companies in certain cases and to offer cable-TV service to subscribers.

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