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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 17, 1998


At a lunch meeting hosted today by the Douglass Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group, FCC Commissioner Michael Powell urged an audience of industry representatives, educators and consumer advocates to promote involvement in the communications industry by potentially marginalized groups, such as women, minorities and small businesses, by offering creative, well-reasoned proposals that take into account the larger economic and political context. Powell set forth five principles that he believes should guide implementation of such proposals:

  1. Pursue race- and gender-neutral policies;
  2. Encourage private-sector initiatives;
  3. Jettison the self-evident rationales of the past;
  4. Pursue economics-based initiatives; and
  5. Look for "win-win" policies.
"With the advent of a competitive free-market we cannot employ the same tools we once used to advance the interests of these groups -- to give them a fair opportunity to compete and to ensure their voices are heard and their communities not ignored," Powell said.

Powell's remarks were featured as part of the Douglass Institute's annual forum. The theme of this year's forum was "From the Underground Railroad to the Information Superhighway." Powell commented that "both the underground railroad and the information superhighweay are powerful metaphors for opportunity" and urged audience members to make thoughtful proposals that will enable women, minorities and small businesses to take advantage of opportunities in the communications industry. Powell cautioned, however, that such proposals should not attempt to guarantee results for these groups. "We all can prosper in this brave new world, but we must remember that, as it has always been, freedom also brings with it new challaneges -- we will have the freedom to fail."

In his remarks, Powell touched on issues related to universal service and, more generally, lobbying before the FCC. Drawing on his experiences with these issues, Powell urged audience members to avoid relying on self-evident rationales for promoting involvement by women, minorities and small businesses in communications. "[W]e can no longer rely on the obvious worthiness of our objectives to validate the policies we adopt to achieve them," said Powell. "I, for one, am willing to take the Supreme Court at its word -- rigorous judicial scrutiny need not be a death knell to our pursuit of fair opportunities for minoritites and women."

Commissioner Powell's speech can be downloaded from his internet site at http://www.fcc.gov/commissioners/powell/ on the World Wide Web.