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The new phone fees hitting local businesses and residents, as reported in The News, may be a short-term cost needed on the road to a long-term gain. Recent changes in telecommunication regulations were designed with a number of goals in mind. Competition and lower prices for telephone service have not yet reached most customers. But local competition may more than compensate for increased fees. So, too, should competition for long-distance service and cable TV.

There are already winners. Some large local companies are seeing lower bills for service in amounts that exceed the cost of the new fees. Some municipalities and residents are collecting fees from cell phone companies for allowing towers and antennas on their property. And cell phone prices are falling as competition grows.

We are potentially the biggest winners. Our libraries and schools can modernize their telecommunications dramatically with federal support for universal service. Already 102 school districts in the state, including a number from Western New York, have electronically applied for funding. The Buffalo and Erie County Library also has applied, along with 145 libraries statewide.

As director of Information and Support Services for Erie County, I believe our country has the best telecommunications system in the world. The only way we can maintain the leadership, the international trade and the jobs that state-of-the-art telecommunications bring us is to aggressively pursue competition and universal service.

Les Hoffman Buffalo

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