AT&T should rethink Internet-access plan

AT&T has announced a plan to offer high-speed access to the Internet through its cable lines. AT&T eventually plans to offer this service to customers of rival Internet services, but for the first two years will only allow customers to use AT&T’s Internet provider. The company’s actions suggest a goal of monopolizing media access. AT&T should reconsider their policy.
Tele-Communications Inc., AT&T’s largest cable purchase, requires its customers connect to the Internet through its Excite at Home portal. Although AT&T could adjust this policy, the company has instead decided to force all of its Internet customers to use Excite at Home. This decision is unwise because it not only suggests an unwarranted amount of control over consumer options, but also is likely to decrease demand for AT&T’s services. Customers who prefer other portals may choose other Internet service providers that offer more flexibility.
AT&T has spent $120 billion to acquire about half the nation’s cable franchises. They plan to offer not only high-speed Internet access but also local phone service and video entertainment. As the phone company acquires more and more services, it is moving toward becoming a media monopoly. Determining what service people must use to access the Internet threatens the democracy of the Internet.
AT&T should seriously consider whether this policy is the best choice. Forcing consumers to connect through a pre-selected server will likely decrease AT&T’s revenue and also might increase the possibility of AT&T again becoming the target of an antitrust lawsuit.

Giuliani mistreats homeless
Since Nov. 20, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has arrested hundreds of homeless people in New York in an ill-advised attempt to eliminate the homeless from the streets. In protest of this action, homeless people and other concerned individuals have been holding rallies and all-night vigils.
The new program has two main aspects. First, homeless people who do not have jobs or refuse to work are kicked out of the city’s homeless shelters. In a second, and somewhat contradictory, part, homeless people on the streets are arrested for loitering and sent to a jail for a night or two. About 1,000 homeless people have been “contacted” by police since Giuliani started the program. About 220 people were arrested or ticketed and 350 people were taken to hospitals or shelters.
This policy is foolish because the vast majority of homeless people are not in their situation by choice. Giuliani’s program ignores the three factors that cause homelessness — lack of low-income housing, mental illness and poor job skills — and instead focuses on the symptom. Instead of further punishing those members of society who have already suffered the most, a better policy would be to offer homeless individuals job training, child care and psychological counseling to allow them a chance at getting off the street permanently, rather than for only a night.