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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 9, 1998|
CHAIRMAN KENNARD URGES STATE CONSUMER ADVOCATES TO HELP PROMOTE FAIR COMPETITION; INTRODUCES EIGHT PRINCIPLES FOR SUSTAINABLE UNIVERSAL SERVICE
FCC Chairman William E. Kennard, in a speech today before the National
Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, urged his audience to help promote fair
competition in telecommunications through consumer education and enforcement. Marking
the second anniversary of passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Kennard said that
the Act "has successfully moved us in the right direction -- towards greater competition."
Kennard also outlined eight principals to guide implementation of universal service in rural
and high cost areas.|
Kennard stressed the need for greater consumer education to match the increase in competition, noting that many basic long distance customers could begin saving money immediately by simply placing a phone call to their current carrier and signing up for a service plan that better suits their needs.
While stating that competition is not yet as broad or as deep as he would like, Chairman Kennard noted that there are now over 100 competitive local exchange carriers that have installed 132 switches and signed about 2,400 interconnection agreements with incumbents. Kennard also noted steady declines in the rates for wireless and long distance services.
Kennard said that number one on his To Do list is delivering more choice in communications; number two is ensuring affordable rates and comparable services for all Americans; and number three is providing consumer protection, particularly against "slamming," "cramming," and unreasonably priced operator service calls.
He told the state consumer advocates that the FCC is guided by a consumer Bill of Rights. This includes the rights to choose providers, to move from one provider to another, to change carriers without changing telephone numbers, to have the same convenient dialing regardless of whether the consumer chooses a new entrant or the incumbent, and to change carriers without paying unnecessary fees.
Kennard noted that this year the FCC will finish implementing a mechanism for sustainable universal service support to rural and high cost areas. "We cannot allow our country to be plagued by an ever-widening gulf between 'haves' and 'have-nots,'" he declared.
To help move the discussion forward, Kennard proposed a set of eight principles which he presented as a balanced package to be taken as a whole - with no picking and choosing. They are:
"1. Universal service reform should not reduce the amount of explicit support that the state receives from the interstate jurisdiction. By this, I mean that costs that previously had been borne by the interstate jurisdiction because of the old high cost fund should continue to be borne by federal universal service mechanisms.Kennard added, "I believe that if guided by these principles, we can reform our existing universal service system for the competitive age."