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[From CIS; this is just an informational forward, and does not represent EFF positions or policy.]

Should your employer prohibit you from operating a BBS, on your own equipment, at your own expense, on your own time with the threat of being fired if you do? It has happened! Tandy/Radio Shack did it to one of their employees. This is a press release of the incident. Everyone should read this!

                           Rochelle Skwarla
                            P.O. Box 5216
                   San Luis Obispo, CA 93403-5216
                         voice: (805) 549-9625
                         modem: (805) 549-0961
                        CompuServe: 74007,1230
                      America Online: Rochelle1

Dateline: San Luis Obispo, California

The Constitutional right of Freedom of Speech by using the Information Superhighway is being roadblocked by Joseph Provenzano, one of the District Managers for Radio Shack - a division of Tandy Corporation.

Ms. Rochelle C. Skwarla, one of the System Operators (SYSOP) for a local hobby computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) and also an employee of Radio Shack was advised to consider shutting down her system or leaving the company.

Searchlight of San Luis Obispo, California has been in operation since March 1990 and has become one of the largest, most popular, and well respected BBSs on the Central California Coast.

Ms. Skwarla has also been employed by one of the local Radio Shack stores since April 1991.

Ms. Skwarla and another coworker were advised on Saturday, May 14, 1994 by the company that the operation of their free (donation optional) system was a conflict of interest and she should choose one or the other.

Rochelle gave the following statement:

"I am a very strong believer in everyone's right to freedom of speech. Preventing me from operating a free BBS would deny me and the many hundreds of my callers this Constitutional freedom. I cannot allow this to happen. I don't really have much of a choice. I am not only standing up for my own rights, but most-importantly, for the rights of everyone to access and make available the means to use the Information Superhighway. If I allow my employer to dictate to me what I can and can't do with my own equipment on my own time, where will it end?"

"Their control stops at the timeclock. If this were not so then everyone's rights are in jeopardy. Your employer could tell you that you can't do such-and-such off the job. For example: You work for an insurance company that refuses to insure motorcycle riders because they consider them to be too high a risk. Now lets say you own some land which you allow off-road bikers to use free. Your employer says that this is a conflict of interest and you can't do it. Should this be allowed? How about if you wrote a letter to the local newspaper editor why you felt motorcycle riders should not be discriminated against. Should you be fired?"

"A computer Bulletin Board System, or Online Information Service as I prefer to call them, is a form of media. Something like a party line telephone, mail, library, radio, television, magazine, and newspaper all rolled into one. Almost everything –books, letters, speeches, movies, and songs– are now available through electronic means. How you access it is through a BBS or OIS. Some systems are free, others are not. We are talking about freedom of the press and the people. The Information Superhighway is just now starting to be built. My system is one of the on-ramps. It is open to traffic and will continue to be so for years to come. I will fight this tooth and nail if I have to. Like a turtle, you will never get anywhere if you don't stick your neck out."

John V. Roach, CEO and Chairman, Tandy Corporation, Tandy Trends, Volume 9, Number 1, Page 8: "…I urge you to contact your congressional representatives'offices - either by phone or by mail - and let them know that you cannot support these bills [H.R. 3626, H.R. 3636 & S.1822] unless they protect your Right to Own, your Right to Choose, and your Right of Access on the Information Superhighway."


The week following the ultimatum Ms. Skwarla's weekly hours were cut back to 15. The following week to 8 1/2. On May 27, 1994 her hours were cut back to 0 and she was advised that her services would no longer be needed at that store.

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