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CUSHION INFORMATION HIGHWAY

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A person would have to be clairvoyant to see all the ramifications of the communications revolution - but Vice President Al Gore's challenge to the country's telecommunications leaders to connect all classrooms, libraries, hospitals and clinics to the coming "information superhighway" by the year 2000 is a sound one.

In exchange, he pledged to loosen federal regulations this year to spur competition and foster private investment in the new communications system.The Clinton administration wisely plans to do everything possible to eliminate all federal laws and regulations that may prevent telephone, cable and long distance companies from entering each other's business.

More competition means exciting new opportunities for consumers, who probably will gain access to the information superhighway by hooking up to a VCR or other box on top of their television.

Once connected, they may be able to file their taxes, shop with a relative who lives 2,000 miles away or call up congressional voting records without ever leaving their couch.

The administration endorses the basic principles of a bill sponsored by Democratic Reps. John Dingell of Michigan and Jack Brooks of Texas, allowing long-distance and local telephone companies to compete against each other.

Gore also would like to see regional telephone companies transmit television shows over their phone lines, cable TV companies provide telephone service and electric utilities offer two-way communications and local telephone service. The Federal Communications Commission would be authorized to reduce regulation of small telecommunications companies.

The vice president also pledged that the dismantling of national communications networks would not be permitted. The idea is to keep basic telecommunications services available to all residents at an affordable price.

No one knows for sure what the telecommunications landscape will look like a decade from now. But the administration is acting wisely in accepting the information highway as a given and making every effort possible to promote smooth travel on it.

The important thing is that people from all walks of life have equal access to its benefits.