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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).

February 15, 2000

Commissioner Ness Pledges Support for Ensuring High-Quality Rural Telecommunications in Speech to National Telephone Cooperative Association

FCC Commissioner Susan Ness in a speech to the National Telephone Cooperative Association yesterday emphasized the importance of a modern telecommunications infrastructure for rural communities. Ness praised rural carriers for "finding innovative solutions to overcome obstacles of distance and terrain" to provide quality services to their communities.

Discussing universal service, Commissioner Ness noted that "even as Congress sought in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to promote competition, Congress also reaffirmed our nation's commitment to universal service. That was the deal. And we must never forget it." Ness pledged that "I will not vote to apply any model to rural carriers unless and until I am convinced that it makes sense for rural America."

Commissioner Ness stressed the need to address universal service and access charge reform for rural carriers, noting that "regulatory uncertainty is a major impediment to investment." She made clear, however, that "I'd rather get it right after taking more time than hastily impose a system that doesn't work. But that's not a license to dither around, either."

Ness applauded the "innovative ways" that rural carriers "are bringing advanced services to the doorsteps of [their] communities." "Just as basic telephone service fostered rural development during the last century, broadband communications will enable new businesses to spring up literally anywhere," Ness told her audience.

Ness pointed to ways that the FCC can help make broadband deployment a reality. She extolled the benefits of the e-rate program that provides discounts to link classrooms and libraries to the Internet, stating that "by most accounts the program is a great success." She noted that, in the first two years, the program has provided "almost one billion dollars to help connect tens of thousands of rural schools and libraries to the Internet."

For further information, contact Jordan Goldstein, (202) 418-2100.

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