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This announcement illustrates several of the issues that will need to be
thought about as things proceed.
 
Issue I:  Without answers to questions like the ones raised below (and
extensions), it's hard to know what to make of the announcement itself.
(In other words, announcements posted on the net need to be constructed
differently and to contain different information from the traditional
press release.  Traditional press releases assume an audience of
knowledgeable intermediaries -- reporters -- who can be relied upon to
provide background and context if the announcement is used as the basis
for a story.  Simply posting a press release on the net, unfortunately,
does +not+ provide better public notice.  Instead it creates a long list
of new questions -- see below :-) .)
 
1.  It's odd to have two such diverse 'sponsors' for a public hearing.
What use is going to be made of 'testimony' delivered on this occasion?
Is there a specific policy initiative -- in either jurisdiction -- on
which comment is sought?  How will these two different agencies use the
testimony received?
 
2.  Although the 'technology' of public hearings is well known, it's
still ambiguous.  A lot is missing from this press release:  Are the
'witnesses' for this hearing already selected?  If so, who are they and
how were they chosen?  If not, how will time during the day be allocated
and who is expected to attend?
 
3.  Saying that there will be 'a series' of these hearings places this one
in a very ambiguous status.  Are people who are not in NM expected to
ignore this one and wait for 'theirs'?
 
4.  Will the results of this hearing be reported?  Of the complete
series?  If so, by whom, when and how?
 
5.  The questions listed (see below) are so huge that it's impossible to
imagine well framed answers from anyone except researchers and
advocacy organizations.
 
6.  Hence what sort of notice should be expected?  This press release
was issued on 12/2, and posted on 12/10 (probably not by NTIA itself).
Perhaps active participants in the policy discussions had advance notice
that enabled them to plan travel, prepare statements, etc.  It doesn't
feel like a serious attempt to solicit testimony from the 'general
public' though, when the event is announced with so short a lead time
and so little information is given about the procedures that will be
followed.
 
Issue II:  Without new ways of understanding and conducting a 'public
hearing,' placing an announcement like this on the net cannot contribute
very much to the process of creating 'good' policy and strong consensus on
a subject.
 
1.  Will 'testimony' be accepted through the net and be made part of the
record at this or future hearings?
 
2.  If there is a specific policy initiative of NTIA's at stake here
(which is clearly implied by the notion of a series of public hearings in
various locations) will there be a specific process whereby NTIA solicits
'testimony' from the net in a virtual hearing?  +Should+ there be such an
occasion?  If so, how will it be managed?
 
=> The questions NTIA raises seem promising as a test-bed for policy
formation using electronic tools, but there is no sign in this
announcement that any effort or thought is being given to that
possibility.
 
=> With better software and new attitudes, NTIA should be able to solicit
public comment on parallel questions directly from the public using the
net.  If participants in COMMUNET have ideas about how to urge them to do
so, now seems like the time to do it!
 
(In +this+ case -- which is not true in others -- the net-aware part of
the public is arguably acceptable as a stand in for 'everyone' because
(a.) the issues are of most direct concern to that portion of the
population, (b.) that portion can easily be seen as an appropiate
surrogate for a larger group who are unaware of their potential
stake in the matter, and (c.) including the net-aware portion increases
dramatically the level of participation in comparison with the numbers
that can be expected to attend even a very extensive series of public
hearings in various locations.)
 
Enuf.
 
Putnam Barber
Seattle
 
 
-----------------------
 
On Fri, 10 Dec 1993, Undetermined origin c/o Postmaster wrote:
 
> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE          PRESS CONTACT:  Larry Williams
> December 2, 1993
> (202)482-1551
>
>                          MEDIA ADVISORY
>
>          NTIA ANNOUNCES UNIVERSAL SERVICE HEARING
>
> WASHINGTON D.C -- Assistant Secretary for Communications and
> Information Larry Irving announced today that the National
> Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the
> New Mexico State Corporation Commission (NMSCC) will hold a
> public hearing on "Communications and Information for All
> Americans:  Universal Service for the 21st Century" on December
> 16, 1993.  The hearing will take place from 8:00a.m. to 5:30p.m.
> at the Technical Vocational Institute's Smith Brasher Hall, 717
> University, S.E. (Room SB-100), Albuquerque, New Mexico.
>
> ...
>
> Through this hearing, NTIA and the NMSCC seek public comment on:
> (1) the effectiveness of today's Universal Service policy as it
> relates to basic telephone service; (2) how the present Universal
> Service policy may be improved and expanded; (3) who should pay
> to support a broader, more modern Universal Service policy; (4)
> what information and network services should be included in a
> modernized definition of basic services; and (5) how the
> government and the private sector can work together to inform the
> public about and prepare for the new Information Age.
>
> This hearing will be the first of a series of universal service
> and universal access hearings sponsored by NTIA to be held across
> the United States seeking public input and discussing government
> telecommunications policy.
> ...
>
> Internet      -  [log in to unmask]
>
> If you have further questions, please contact James McConnaughey,
> Joann Anderson, or Alfred Lee at (voice) 202/482-1880 or (fax)
> 202/482-6173.
>
>
>