Paying for Universal Access

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The FCC adopted a plan further deregulating the telecommunications industry that will raise $3 billion to help pay for President Clinton's universal telecom service and might at the same time save people money. "This is follow-through on the deregulation of the industry promised in the Telecommunications Act of 1996," says TIME's Bruce Van Voorst. "The proceeds are paying for the concept of universal service, which today means not just phone lines to rural areas but the wiring of libraries, schools, and hospitals for the Internet. It's the Clinton Administration's promise that the gap between have- and have-nots will not extend to information." Winners in the deal: Consumers with one phone line who make a lot of long distance calls will get a 5-15 percent rate cut. Losers: Small businesses and anyone with a second line for a modem or fax. Per-month charges for lines for business firms will go up from $5.50 to $6 on July 1, and to $7.50 in 1998. Second home lines will go up from $3.50 to $4.50 and then $5.