Communications-related Headlines for 4/15/99

Wiring the Schools For E-Mail and More (NYT)

America Online Membership Hits 17 Million (WSJ)
Alta Vista Invites Advertisers to Pay for Top Ranking (NYT)
Peekaboo! Anonymity Is Not Always Secure (NYT)
Kosovo Conflict Inspires Digital Art Projects (CyberTimes)
Home Page Away From Home (WP)

FCC Wants Easier-to-Read Phone Bills (WP)
Bell Atlantic, GTE Get Creative (WP)
Bell Atlantic Says It Intends To End Airtouch Venture (WSJ)

Software Pirates Threatening Chinese Growth (SJ Merc)


Issue: EdTech
As schools around the nation get connect to the Internet, many have begun
offering email accounts to students. With access to email, students at the
Stuyvesant high school in Brookland (NY) can communicated with friends, send
homework to teachers, and even get help from college professors. While
enhancing communication within the schools and to the world outside, new
technologies such as email can open the door to some very tough questions.
In developing "acceptable use" policies for email systems, school districts
must decide whether students can send or receive personal messages and how
offensive material will be defined and dealt with. "Is E-mail the property
of the Board of Ed?" asked Bill Stamatis, of the United Federation of
Teachers, "Who has a right to it?" Many school districts, however, will
first have to deal with more basic issues such as finding funds and staff
support for email systems, before they can even begin to grapple with the
issues that surround its use.
[SOURCE: New York Times (E8), AUTHOR:Simon Rodberg]


Issue: Online Services
AOL reports its membership has reached 17 million and the amount of time people
spend online has grown to an average of 55 minutes per day. The amount of time
spent surfing the Web is up 10 minutes from a year ago -- a crucial statistic
for AOL because more time online means more advertisements are being viewed. On
another AOL front, it is coming under fire from volunteers who supervise AOL
chatrooms in exchange for Internet accounts. AOL volunteers have complained to
the Labor Department that they should be paid. AOL says they are aware of the
complaint and are discussing the issue with the Labor Department. The issue may
extend beyond AOL. The use of "community leaders" as volunteers to oversee chat
rooms, coordinate message boards and answer questions is a widespread practice
in the industry.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (B7)]

Issue: Electronic Commerce
The company that sells advertising for Alta Vista is promoting to
advertisers the right to be listed in one of the first two positions in its
Internet search results. Doubleclick promoted the program in a recent
e-mail message to potential customers. The major search services until now
have insisted that search rankings are produced objectively according to
computer formula and are not for sale. Kurt Lozert, the general manager of
Alta Vista's search service, said, "It will be very clear to users that this
is not the index results. These will be boxed, say, or there will be a red
thing that says this is an advertisement." Larry Pryor, the director of the
online journalism program at the University of Southern California, said,
"It's largely a design issue of how they present the paid for selections."
Alta Vista, owned by Compaq Computer Corporation, is partly copying the
business model of, an Internet search site that consists entirely
of paid listings. In Goto's search results, each listing is explicitly
accompanied by the amount that the advertiser will pay the site if a user
clicks on the link. Other than Goto, none of the search sites have sold
positions in their search results. They do, however, sell advertisements of
all shapes and sizes that are placed above and to the side of search results.
[SOURCE: New York Times (C2), AUTHOR: Saul Hansell]

Issue: Privacy
With increased demand for anonymity online, several companies have begun
offering services that claim to shield identity in cyberspace. Richard M.
Smith, a computer programmer who used the identifying code in Microsoft
office that helped in tracking the creator of the Melissa virus, decided to
test ride some of these privacy protection services. Smith's findings are
somewhat discouraging to those who seek greater security
online. "That these systems were so easy to break is a little surprising to
me," Smith said. In less than an hour he was able to locate and exploit
holes in the security services. "If you are a user of any of these
services," Smith said "I highly recommend that you turn off Javascript, Java
and ActiveX controls in your browser before surfing the Web. This simple
precaution will prevent any leaks of your I.P. address or cookies."
[SOURCE: New York Times (E1), AUTHOR: Peter Lewis]

Kosovo Conflict Inspires Digital Art Projects
Issue: Internet/Arts
Artists are finding the Internet to be a compelling place to express their
reactions to the Kosovo conflict. "Weak Blood" is a virtual gallery with over
35 international contributors and links to 55 works making anti-violence
statements. Digital artists view the Internet as more that a "communications
pipeline, " but as a creative medium. Although "Weak Blood" and a second art
site, "Virtual Heatwave" are promoting anti-violence (whether it be protesting
the Milosevic regime, NATO, or both), a pro-war art site is likely to crop up
if it hasn't already. The Internet has sped up artists' ability to have an
audience. No need to wait for paint to dry or a gallery to put up an exhibit.
The downside of Internet speediness may not be the most ideal facilitator of
expression. Reiner Strasser, a high school art teacher of Weisbaden Germany who
launched "Weak Blood" on March 27, says that many artists declined to
contribute right away, saying they needed more time for their pieces. Tamas
Banovich, co-director of the Postmasters Gallery in New York, says
participating in the political debate through digital art is evidence that
utopian ideals of the Internet are not dead. He is collecting statements on the
Balkan crisis through an online bulletin called "War Artists Bulletin Board."
Submissions will be printed and exhibited in the gallery from April 27 through
May 8.
[SOURCE: CyberTimes, AUTHOR: Mathew MIrapaul ]

Issue: International/Internet
The Web now offers natives of India scattered throughout the world a virtual
online community at Indians Abroad on Line (IAOL), a new Internet service
based in Rockville (MD). For the 15 million Indians who are living abroad,
Sigmanet Network has combed the Internet and traditional media sources for
everything related to India and have made them available through a single
Web site ( For the many Indians living alone, on
temporary work visas, in foreign communities with few other Indians, the
service offers a sense of community. The service has already signed up
thousands of customers in 49 states and Canada; subscribers pay a yearly fee
of $144. The common language of IAOL is English but news stories are also
offered on the service in Tamil and Punjabi. The e-mail service can
translate English e-mail into those languages too. E-mail back to India
itself seems like a good idea to stay in touch but it is limited by the fact
that fewer than 200,000 computer are linked to the Net in the entire
country, meaning that it reaches fewer than 2 million people out of an
estimated 960 million.
[SOURCE: Washington Post (C1), AUTHOR: Pamela Constable]


Issue: FCC/Telephony
"I looked at the bill again and again, and I couldn't explain it." It is bad
news when the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has that
reaction to his family's personal phone bill. Chairman William Kennard and
the FCC apparently are going to do something about it. The FCC plans to
issue new truth-in-billing regulations today to make it easier for consumers
to understand their phone bills. The more detailed bill should also help in
the effort to spot fraudulent charges that may have occurred through
"slamming" or "cramming." Under the new regulations, the bills will
highlight any new company whose charges have been added to the most recent
bill. Each company listed on the bill must be clearly identified and must
include a toll free number for consumer questions. The guidelines will also
require wireless telephone companies to identify all service providers on
their bills and include contact phone numbers.
[SOURCE: Washington Post (E1), AUTHOR: Caroline E. Mayer]

Issue: Telephony
Bell Atlantic and GTE, seeking to re-energize a merger that Federal
Communications Commission Chairman Bill Kennard threatened to delay last
month, have withdrawn their proposed solution to one of the most contentious
issues. GTE's Internet and long distance services cannot be
assumed by Bell Atlantic without FCC approval. The commission appears
dissatisfied with Bell Atlantic-GTE's proposal for a two-year break while
Bell Atlantic seeks to gain permission to offer long distance telephone and
Internet service in states with its local telephone service. In a letter to
the FCC the two companies have withdrawn their request for a waiver and have
promised to make a further submission to address the issue. They have not
indicated what their new proposal will be.
[SOURCE: Washington Post (Online), AUTHOR: Associated Press]

Issue: Wireless
Bell Atlantic has agreed to break up its joint venture with AirTouch
Communications. Bell Atlantic and AirTouch formed a venture in 1994, known as
PrimeCo Personal Communications. The partnership was strained recently when
Bell Atlantic tried to acquire AirTouch outright and lost the bid to Vodafone.
Bell Atlantic, along with its new partner GTE, is suing AirTouch in order to
compete for wireless sales in markets where the two overlap. The break up of
Prime Co could relieve Bell Atlantic of a wireless conflict in Chicago. Last
week, GTE agreed to acquire Ameritech's Chicago properties. Bell Atlantic/GTE
would not be allowed to own both Ameritech wireless and PrimeCo in the same
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (B7), AUTHOR: Chris Adams]


Issue: International/Intellectual Property
Chinese officials are concerned that China, plagued by one of the highest
rates of software piracy in the world, may lag in information growth as a
result. "If our piracy problem is not resolved, China's software industry
will not grow," said Yin Zhihe, executive chairman of the Beijing Software
Industry Association. China shut down 72 pirate production lines between
1996 and 1998, but barely caused a blip in pirate software. Informed
officials estimate that 96% of software used in China is pirated. One reason
given is that the Chinese people have little tradition for intellectual
property rights, but the concept is gaining ground slowly. In early April
the State Council, or Chinese Cabinet, reissued a ban on government use of
pirated software. Yin is also urging tougher penalties for violators.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Reuters]