Cultural Revolutions

Expanding Power

The contract with America is clearly expanding the power of the federal government, and if you don't believe it, take a look at yet another piece of legislation that will supersede local statutes and ordinances across the 50 states. It's called the Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of 1995, and it's part of the GOP plan to eliminate barriers to entry into the burgeoning industry in cellular phones and other electronic gadgetry that are paving the information superhighway. The problem is, the bill is the equivalent of a legislative blunderbuss that will blow to smithereens niggling obstacles such as zoning laws. Consider the main clauses: "No state or local statute, regulation or other legal requirement shall effectively prohibit any carrier or other person from entering" the telecommunications business. Moreover, counties mav not pass an ordinance that would "effectively prohibit any person or carrier from providing any interstate or intrastate telecommunications or information service." Lastly, a state or locality is barred from charging fees that would increase the cost of providing service. The Federal Communications Commission will wield this mailed fist of the federal black knight.

The legal consequences of the bill's language will soon become clear to small towns near big cities everywhere, as the use of cellular telephones increases. Indeed, a summertime fight in McLean,...

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