Don't Let Consumers Crash On The Info Superhighway

The article "Yield signs on the Info Interstate" (Information Processing, Jan. 24) offers a good description of what almost everyone wants from the rush to overhaul the Communications Act of 1934. Everyone except, perhaps, the average American consumer.

What no one on Capitol Hill is talking about is whether consumers will have a say in how they will access the Information Superhighway.

Will consumers have the right to choose whether to purchase their own in-home equipment or be forced to accept the equipment selected for them by the service provider? Will consumers have the right to own home-communications equipment at all, and if so, will the carrier be able to refuse service to customers who own competitive equipment? In a totally deregulated environment, some of the consumer protections we currently take for granted can be lost if the public does not speak out.

The experience of the competitive consumer-electronics market proves that when consumers have access to commercially available equipment, the quality, style, and features of products increase and the prices decrease. Contrast the highly competitive telephone-equipment and personal-computer markets with the current cable industry, where many consumers are forced to access the network through unsightly set-top cable boxes, which also disable many features of their TVs and VCRs.

Congress should be lauded for its efforts to update communications regulations, but it will be a mistake if legislation does not include basic con-

sumer-rights principles earned over the past decade.

John V. Roach

Chairman and CEO

Tandy Corp.

Fort Worth

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