The 104th Congress is in the midst of the first wholesale reform of telecommunications regulation in one-half century. The new regulatory framework emerging in the Republican-controlled Congress, if enacted, will usher in a radically deregulated, market-driven telecom environment, one in which the benefits of the emerging national information infrastructure will likely be distributed differentially, based on ethnicity and socio-economic status. Many U.S. residents may actually be charged higher rates for essential telecommunication services after deregulation (just as they did when cable television was deregulated), which may force many vulnerable users off the network. In addition, the concentration of media ownership eschews the viability of greater minority control of telecommunications and media outlets. The irony then is that although advanced, interactive technologies promise empowerment and choice, a laissez-faire approach to reform may exacerbate fault lines in the information society between those who are already advantaged and less affluent ethnic and racial minorities.


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