Reach Out And Bill Someone

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WASHINGTON, D. C.: Wielding an electronic pen, President Clinton signed the controversial telecommunications bill at the Library of Congress, setting into motion a flurry of responses by activists and commercial firms. The American Civil Liberties Union immediately filed suit over a provision banning "indecent" material from electronic networks, saying the measure abridges free speech. Many popular Internet sites also turned their backgrounds black in protest. While the smut provision has captured many of the headlines, several other important measures also became law. The barrier between long-distance and local providers is now gone. AT&T announced moments after the bill was signed that it will enter local telephone markets by this summer, while local phone giant GTE said it will team up with the nation's fourth-largest long-distance provider to market services under the GTE name. Another section of the law requires television manufacturers to install in every set a "V-chip," which parents could program to block programs they find objectionable. Clinton, who hawked the technology during his State of the Union address, calls the chip a tool for "parents who want to take more responsibility for their children's upbringing." Prominent Republicans have given the chip a lukewarm response, favoring the concept, but questioning the wisdom of forcing manufacturers to make and install the chip.