Congress overwhelmingly passes Telecom Bill

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Both the House and Senate voted Thursday in favor of the Telecommunications Bill, which proposes to ease restrictions on television, telephone and computer industries. The House passed the Bill with a 414-16 vote and the Senate with a 91-5. President Clinton has said he will sign the Bill. The overhaul of the 1935 Communications Act allows local and long-distance phone companies and cable companies to enter each other's markets; deregulates cable rates and allows media companies to expand their holdings. TV stations will be permitted to reach up to 35 percent of all national viewers. The bill would also restrict "indecent" material on the Internet and online services as well as allow for the production of "V" chips--computer chips in TV sets that would allow parents to screen violent, sexually oriented or other objectionable shows off their TV. The chip, however, won't be available for a couple of years. Some broadcasters in the TV industry have promised to fight the V chip ruling in court, for fear it may jeopardize programming and subsequent ad revenue.

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