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News Briefs

Poverty Rate Rises Despite Economic Recovery

Los Angeles Times

Despite a growing economy, another 1.3 million people fell below the poverty line last year and the economic divide between rich and poor Americans continued to swell unexpectedly, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Altogether, 39.3 million Americans, or 15.1 percent of the population, lived in poverty in 1993, up from 14.8 percent in 1992 and the highest rate since 1983, when the economy was emerging from its deepest recession since World War II.

The figures reveal the uneven impact of the economy's rebound as poor Americans have experienced severe setbacks and the middle class has continued to lose ground, while the nation's wealthiest 20 percent has grown substantially more affluent.

In its annual income and poverty estimates, Bureau officials also said that the number of Americans without health care rose by 1.1 million last year. At a time when health care reform legislation dominated the political agenda, but failed to produce a consensus, the bureau said 39.7 million Americans, or 15.3 percent of the population, were without health insurance sometime during the year.

FCC Considers Easing Cable-Price Regulations

The Washington Post

After spending nearly two years hammering out rules regulating cable television prices, federal officials are proposing some price deregulation.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering a new policy that would enable cable companies to add new channels to their lineups and charge customers whatever the market will bear.

The proposal, which has the backing of FCC Chairman Reed E. Hundt, would mandate that programming that now appears on a cable system continue to be price-regulated, but anything new would be free of price controls. Consumers would have the option of choosing the new package, or "tier," or sticking with what they have now.

Hundt's proposal is an attempt to create financial incentives for cable operators to add new programming. Cable companies have generally not expanded their lineups in the past 18 months, while the FCC passed two successive sets of rate rules that ordered the industry to cut its prices up to 17 percent.

Cable companies say the price rules effectively froze the development of new channels because operators could not be assured of a profit if they added a channel and were restricted in what they could charge for it. They have lobbied Hundt and the FCC for months to create a formula that would allow them to expand.