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THE CUTTING EDGE | PREVIEWS

Help for Those Burning Questions on the Telecom Act

September 30, 1996

Will competition for local phone service benefit Baby Bells, or will they lose out to new rivals such as long-distance carriers and cable TV companies? Will the Telecommunications Act of 1996 result in more or less investment in phone-related infrastructure? How will the consumer fare in the new world of competitive local phone service?

The answers to these questions depend largely on how the Federal Communications Commission interprets the sweeping telecom reform law Congress passed in February. Representatives from Pacific Bell, GTE, AT&T and the California Public Utilities Commission will debate these and other issues in a panel discussion titled "Local Exchange Competition: The FCC Sets the Rules."

A pair of USC communications professors will moderate the discussion, to be held at the university's Annenberg School for Communication at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Attendance is free, but reservations are required. For more information, call Sheila Braslau at (213) 740-0934.

THIS WEEK

* Tuesday, 6 p.m.: Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead, talks about his career with the band. America Online. Keyword: Centerstage

* Tuesday, 8 p.m.: Troy Aikman, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys football team, takes questions in a chat. America Online. Keyword: Centerstage

* Thursday, 4 p.m.: Country music star Rick Trevino talks about joining the Tejano scene. America Online. Keyword: Latino

ON THE NET

* If the election were held today, do you know who you'd vote for? Congressional Quarterly lets you look up candidates for the U.S. House and Senate at http://voter96.cqalert.com by typing in your ZIP Code. You can find out what the incumbents have been up to and participate in chats on a variety of topics.

* If you want to become a volunteer but don't know where to start, visit the Assistance League of Southern California's Volunteer Center (http://www.volunteers.org). Select your areas of interest (ranging from libraries to disaster relief), specify where you'd like to help and when you're available, and the center will provide a list of options.

* The Ultimate Band List site (http://ubl.com) is aptly named. In addition to finding an exhaustive, searchable directory of singers and groups on the Web, visitors can connect to newsgroups, find out about upcoming chats and browse a guide to Internet radio stations.

* Here's an alternative to waiting in line at the DMV: the new home page for the California Department of Motor Vehicles (http://www.dmv.ca.gov). Get forms to change your address or sell your car, or browse through handbooks such as "Tips You Can Give a Mature Driver." You can also look up the location of the nearest DMV office--sorry, you still need to go in to take the driver's test.

* The National Heritage Fellowships recognize the many cultural traditions that contribute to the U.S. artistic community. The National Endowment for the Arts selects the winners, and you can view samples of their work--from Ukranian egg decoration to Inupiat doll making--at http://arts.endow.gov

* Uncle Sam wants YOU. To find a job with the federal government, visit the Office of Personnel Management's new Web site (http://www.usajobs.opm.gov). Enter your experience, select your job preferences, then click to search for matches.

* Explorer Stan Grist is a real-life Indiana Jones, and he's leading an expedition through an ancient tunnel system in South America in search of the remains of a lost civilization. Keep up with his travels and discoveries through daily updates, including pictures, at http://www.digitalexplorer.com

* Let Writer's Break (http://memers.aol.com/wrbreak/break.html)help you overcome writer's block and other woes. This site is designed to inspire writers and keep them motivated.

* Looking for a computer peripheral, such as a modem, scanner or video card? Check out Price Comp (http://www.pricecomp.com) to see if you're getting a good deal. The site lists some of the lowest prices for a variety of specific brands and models, along with phone numbers of low-cost vendors.

Site suggestions can be sent to cutting.edge@latimes.com

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