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Statements: Tristani | Furchtgott-Roth
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Federal Communications Commission
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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

August 5, 1999

Report No. 99-32

News Media Contact:
Emily Hoffnar 202-418-0253

Commission Seeks to Promote Universal Service in Tribal Lands and Other Insular Areas

Washington, D.C. -- As part of its efforts to extend the full range of modern telecommunications services to all Americans, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has begun to address impediments to deployment and subscribership in unserved and underserved areas. While nearly 95 percent of all households in the United States have telephone service today, Indians living on reservations and on tribal lands have significantly lower rates of telephone subscribership. The FCC is seeking comment on unserved and underserved areas as part of a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides that "consumers in all regions of the nation, including low-income consumers and those in rural, insular, and high-cost areas, should have access to telecommunications and information services . . . ." Through decisions adopted over the past two years, the FCC has been striving to ensure that consumers have access to and can afford the services supported by federal universal service support mechanisms. The goal is to ensure that the country does not become divided into information "haves" and "have-nots." Despite these efforts, the FCC has recognized that certain regions of the nation remain unserved or inadequately served.

In the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, comment is sought to ascertain the availability of, and to understand the possible impediments to, deployment and subscribership in unserved and underserved areas of the Nation. In addition, the FCC seeks comment on a range of possible modifications to its high-cost, low-income and rural health care support mechanisms that are designed to promote deployment and subscribership in these areas. The FCC invites interested parties to comment on the implementation of section 214(e)(3) of the Act, which concerns the ability of the FCC and state commissions to order carriers to provide service in unserved areas, including the possibility of using a competitive bidding mechanism. The FCC also sought comment on the implementation of section 214(e)(6) of the Act, which authorizes the FCC to designate carriers not subject to the jurisdiction of a state commission as eligible telecommunications carriers.

Action by the Commission, August 5, 1999, by Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in CC Docket No. 96-45 (FCC 99-204); Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, and Powell; Commissioner Tristani approving and issuing a statement; Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth approving in part, dissenting in part, and issuing a statement at a later date.

Common Carrier Bureau Contact: Valerie Yates 202-418-1500.