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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).

January 12, 1998


FCC Chairman William Kennard told a meeting of the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telephone Companies (OPASTCO) at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that he hoped to work closely with small telcos in creating "a competitive telecommunications marketplace that leaves no one behind and keeps all of America connected." Kennard stated that small and rural telephone companies "are vitally important" to the country's telecommunications future. Kennard explained that small telcos "are building the infrastructure that will keep rural America connected. This means jobs and economic development can flow to those communities. "

Kennard added that the information superhighway "can connect small and rural communities to the world of commerce and culture, or it can leave them behind. It is the most important factor in the economic development of our time."

"Clearly we have much work to do together," Kennard said. "Universal service. Access reform. Pricing flexibility. Deregulation."

"As a starting point, and as I begin my tenure as Chairman of the FCC, I want to make sure that we have ways to maintain a dialogue on these issues," he said. "So we will be announcing in the next few weeks the membership of a Rural Task Force. The Rural Task Force will be selected by the Joint Board on Universal Service. Its members will be charged with fostering continuous dialogue and action on the issues that I am discussing today, and other issues of importance to rural subscribers."

"We have also designated a senior-level member of the Common Carrier staff to serve as the FCC's ombudsman on rural issues. . . . [I have chosen] Sonja Rifken [who] . . . now serves as Special Assistant to Richard Metzger, Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau. She is a dynamo and I know she will do a wonderful job in making sure that your issues receive the focus that they deserve by the Commission staff and the Commissioners."

"Another opportunity for dialog on these issues will be the proceeding on Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act. Under Section 706, this year the Commission will initiate proceeding to determine whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a timely fashion. We want to identify and remove barriers to infrastructure investment so we can promote investment in more bandwidth capacity. This is so crucial to the development of infrastructure everywhere, and especially in rural areas."

Chairman Kennard also said he hoped "to hold a series of field hearings, perhaps in conjunction with your state and regional conventions, . . . to get a better handle on the state of deployment of advanced technology in rural communities."

- FCC -