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Just as no great modern invention came about by committee, neither have many great technological advances been spurred by congressional mandates.

That's a lesson lawmakers should take to heart as they try to regulate the so-called information highway. Instead, some of them seem determined to regulate every detail, making sure free enterprise and the entrepreneurial drive are slowed in favor of "universal service" and other lofty goals.Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., is sponsoring a bill that would add about 50 new rule-making procedures to be followed by those wishing to find a highway on-ramp. Ostensibly, the bill's purpose is to allow local telephone companies to do things only long-distance carriers now can do, and viceversa. But it would do much more.

The universal service restrictions alone are so broad they could force companies to give services freely to the poor. What an incentive! If government had controlled the industrial revolution the way Hollings' bill wants to control the telecommunications revolution, everyone still would be coming to work on horseback.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole has a better proposal. His bill would completely deregulate the telecommunications industry and repeal the 1992 Cable Act.

Nearly every great advance in modern society has been motivated by a free entrepreneurial spirit. If Congress succeeds in quashing that spirit through regulations, Americans may have to spend years languishing on dirt roads before the information highway is constructed.