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Competition in cable TV won't helpReaders should...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Competition in cable TV won't help

Readers should concern themselves with the implications of the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision allowing local telephone companies into the cable television field. The FCC has allowed another fox into the chicken coop, as the potential for abuse by yet another participant in this industry is great.

For years, numerous media companies have been predicting a communications revolution, where households could access a panoply of information services (including home banking or any number of data bases). There are three factors that should be considered as this decision comes into effect.

* The most recent statistics I've seen indicate that while a cable TV system is available to 90 percent of all U.S. households, only 54 percent subscribe to even basic service.

* In the mid-1980s, several media companies offered cable-based information services to residential customers on an experimental basis and failed miserably, losing tens of millions of dollars in the process.

* Although 20 million homes have personal computers, only 1 million have signed up for a service such as "Prodigy" or "Compuserve." In sum, one should treat predictions of this expanding information services market with a lot of skepticism.

Competition has been the rallying cry of many regulatory bodies (the FCC among them) for over a decade. Competition in the cable TV market will mean hardly anything to local residents. They still will deal with only two providers (one for telephone and one for cable TV) or only one, if local phone companies involve themselves in cable business.

The ultimate question is who pays for the upgrading of the telephone network. Why should customers pay for another system to provide numerous information services when all they want is a telephone dial tone?

As competition is not the panacea it has been made out to be, the need for regulatory oversight will remain. It may even grow stronger.

ohn McGoldrick

Towson

Young Samaritans' story is contrast to teen-age horror tale

This is a little story. You won't find it on the front page among the stories reporting the 17-year-old arrested for murder or the 13- and 14-year-old drug dealers or the teen-age drunk drivers. Rather, it is a story about local teen-agers who tried to be old-fashioned Good Samaritans and what happened to them.

On a Friday night, last July 24, our son, Alex, 16, was driving on Paper Mill Road from Cockeysville toward Phoenix in Baltimore County. His friend, Dan, 15, rode with him. Behind them, their friends, Keith and Brian, both 16, followed at some distance in a separate vehicle.

Alex and Dan came upon an accident that apparently had happened only minutes before. A car had hit a tree and was completely smashed. Alarmed by the sight of the car, they decided to stop and offer assistance.

Miraculously, the driver was conscious and appeared to be unharmed. They offered to call the police or give him a ride. He insisted that a ride was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the boys noticed a car approaching them traveling at a high rate of speed. The car swerved, the driver lost control and slammed on the brakes.

Alex saw the car coming toward them and dove out of the way. Dan also tried to escape the car's path but the car caught his leg and pinned him against the tree.

The driver, a middle-aged man, and his female companion sat stunned, doing nothing, while Dan banged on the hood and Alex banged on a window of the car, yelling for the driver to back up to free Dan's leg. Finally, the man backed up but quickly sped away into the darkness.

During this time, Keith and Brian arrived and the three boys carried Dan to Alex's truck. A lady with a car phone called the police and an ambulance, and the boys called Dan's parents.

The boys berated themselves for not getting the tag number but indicated their top priority was to help Dan. They described the car as a late model, dark-colored, expensive automobile, probably a Mercedes.

It took about 15 minutes for an ambulance and the police to arrive. By this time, Dan was in shock and a great deal of pain. He was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Towson. He had two fractures, and the hospital told his parents he would have to stay for a few days of treatment until the swelling in his leg went down enough to accommodate a hard cast. Then, after wearing the cast for six or eight weeks, he will require some rigorous physical therapy.

It is difficult to guess what "Mr. Mercedes" was thinking as he sped off into the night. Being a stranger to the young men, he could not have counted on the fact that three of the four boys have been close personal friends and neighbors since they were babies and would have done anything to help each other first, allowing "Mr. Mercedes" to escape.

Certainly he could not have known that these boys had supported each other through some family tragedies as well as the normal difficulties of adolescence and, consequently, had a strong commitment to each other.

He was not present to see the injured boy's pain or his friends' frustration or the anguish of his parents. Perhaps he will be at your next dinner party, moaning about the decadence of our teen-agers today.

LTC Right now, Dan is worried about playing lacrosse in the spring. Alex, Keith and Brian are worried about Dan. I wonder what "Mr. Mercedes" is worried about.

Linda Rains Allman

Phoenix

Poor security at MTA parking lots

As a Towson resident who works downtown, I saw the new light rail system as an ideal way to commute to and from my office on Eager Street.

The cost of a monthly pass is about half of what it cost me to park, and the light rail would have saved me even more in gasoline and wear and tear on my car.

I used light rail for about two months, but imagine my shock and anger when I returned to the Timonium Park and Ride on July 14 to find one wheel and tire stolen from my car.

Since I am in no position financially to replace a stolen car should that ever happen, I am now back to driving to work. Perhaps just as frustrating is the Mass Transit Administration's apparent "Let's bury our heads in the sand and hope it goes away" attitude.

While I left a report with an MTA officer at the Park and Ride, I did not receive even a letter or phone call from the MTA expressing any regret over the incident.

While I realize funding is scarce in these tight economic times, I would hope the state can find a way to better patrol these lots, or else the light rail may be destined to become simply a passing fad.

Andrew J. Passman

Towson

Bill payer

Having just paid my 1992 Baltimore City property tax, I note two small failings on the part of the city in connection with same.

The city no longer encloses a pre-addressed courtesy envelope for payment, nor does it provide a copy of the bill marked "paid" on request as it once did.

If these omissions are the result of belt-tightening by City Hall, I think they are ill-advised.

Paul F. Case

Baltimore

Regulation needed

In The Evening Sun July 22 you published a letter from a reader under the headline "Regulation is killing U.S. businesses."

While the statement could be true in a limited number of instances, I feel that lack of regulation is killing business.

Since the beginning of the Reagan era, laws enacted for the protection of the public during previous administrations have been either ignored or whittled away to the point of ineffectiveness.

While Republican administrations have been responsible for this trend, the Democratic-controlled Congress shares equally in the blame for allowing it to happen.

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act for all intents and purposes is no more. Bigger companies gobble up smaller companies in restraint of trade leaving many cities and towns without business and employment.

Similar situations exist in the total or partial deregulation of the air line industry, our banking industry, and other forms of business and commerce.

Now, the last nail in the coffin is about to be placed when the trade barriers are dropped with Mexico. The mass exodus of work will move south of the border, and with that will come a still greater trade deficit and more unemployment.

Richard L. Lelonek

Baltimore

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