MICHAEL J. COPPS
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
UNITED STATES TELECOMMUNICATIONS TRAINING INSTITUTE
SEPTEMBER 28, 2001
Thank you, Mickey, for that very kind introduction and for inviting me to be with you and this distinguished global audience today. And thank you to everyone in this audience for being here in a time of such trouble and tribulation for our nation and, indeed, for all our nations.
Permit me to say, first of all, how grateful we at the FCC are for the hundreds of messages of sympathy and support that have come to us from nations around the world over the past two weeks. Don Abelson, who directs our International Bureau, has shared those messages with me, and I can tell you they have been a source of very great comfort and strength for your friends at the FCC. They are moving, they are touching, and they are appreciated.
I suppose we won't get back to the kind of world we lived in before September 11 for a long, long time. Maybe never. I use the word "world" instead of the word "nation" deliberately, because the terror we witnessed on September 11 was an onslaught not just against one nation, but against civilization and humanity. Just as it has united our nation, so is it uniting people and nations the world over. Uniting them not just in revulsion against those who perpetrated these horrors, but uniting them in determination to wipe away this kind of terror in such a way that our children and our children's children will not have to live in constant fear.
As the events of two weeks ago unfolded, we watched not only the acts of terrorism, but we saw also the heroism of the rescuers and the quick response of our national government. And, very quickly, we began to see that we were not alone. Soon we heard our National Anthem being played at Buckingham Palace; we witnessed a national moment of silence across the vastness of Russia; we saw leaders in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Eastern Europe condemning the acts of barbarism. There were outpourings of sympathy and support from all around the globe. Americans knew that we were not alone, and we knew this instantly, because of the reach and power of telecommunications.
The searing experience we have been through affects each of us personally, as husbands, wives, fathers and mothers, but also professionally, from the standpoint of the work we do. We are in the great enterprise of communications, and communications are key for not only designing the world of the future, but for preventing the kind of horror we have just come through. And if we must endure more of this, communications are key to helping to mitigate disasters and minimize losses.
I believe that our telecommunications and media industries performed well and even nobly in the wake of the attacks. They mobilized immediately. They made an absolutely heroic effort to keep us in touch with one another on our phones and cell phones, in spite of an incredible and totally unprecedented volume of demand and in spite of damage to their infrastructure. Radio, television and cable -- locally, nationally and internationally -- worked around the clock and shared scarce resources and precious information. Revenue considerations were swept aside in favor of informing the citizenry. Newspapers and newsmagazines produced special editions and began providing information and perspective from the outset. Satellite communications were critical as we all struggled to make sense of, and react to, the crimes that were committed. And the Internet provided a critically important new channel of communication, connecting many of us when other means of communication were made unavailable. So we owe the men and women of all these industries a large, and still growing, debt.
The whole world was witness to the tragic events of September 11 as they happened. It was horrifying, but the fact that we all could see events as they occurred, and hear from our leaders and thinkers quickly, meant the difference between an outbreak of national terror born of ignorance and cooperation based on knowledge.
Now the challenge is to prepare for the worst. We really have no option. We must be about the task of prioritizing what we do, of allocating resources toward new ends, and mobilizing the great power of communications to serve the safety and security of all our people. Recent events do not change what the public interest is, but they do focus us on the most fundamental pillar of the public interest, which is the safety and security of the people.
I suggest that each of us has an obligation, in the aftermath of September 11, to take another look at what we are doing as regulators, both within our countries and in the global arena. Each of us needs to reassess our priorities and strategies to make certain that they are in conformity with the requirements of safety and security for our people. Telecommunications are a bridge not only to our economic future, but to our security future, too. So I believe there are new questions to be asked, new initiatives to undertake, and that they involve everyone in this room in important ways. At the FCC we are trying to address these questions.
I was asked to spend a few minutes describing how the Commission works. The first thing to highlight is that the FCC is a regulatory body independent of telecommunications companies. Our role is to promote the public interest of our citizens -- all of our citizens. Our Congress makes the law; we follow it. That means we are the expert agency that implements the directives of the Congress. We do so in an open and transparent manner. Any citizen can participate, and we encourage more of them to do so. Everything we do occurs in open meetings or is published for anyone to read. The federal courts may review our decisions upon petition from affected citizens, and the courts have not been bashful about asserting this prerogative.
The FCC oversees telephone, cable, wireless, broadcast, and satellite communications. I am one of five Commissioners, although one Commissioner slot is temporarily open. The President appoints us and the Senate confirms us. We may only be removed in special circumstances, and never just because we disagree with the President or any other government official. Three of the Commissioners come from the party in control of the Executive Branch, and two are from the opposition party. Commissioners are strictly prohibited from owning a financial interest in any company that we regulate.
We conduct our business in three main ways: (1) rulemaking; (2) licensing; and (3) adjudication. Rulemaking involves a process of making or changing the regulations that govern telecommunications industries. The public has full access to the Commission as we debate new rules, and always has the right to participate in the debate. All of our decisions are published. Licensing and spectrum allocation involve granting permission for people to operate broadcast or wireless services. We generally assign spectrum through auctions. Adjudication occurs at the FCC much as it does in a regular court, with a special judge and the ability to appeal.
Congress has set our basic policy outlook at the FCC. It has told us to encourage competition; to create only those rules that are needed to serve the public interest; and to ensure equal access for all Americans to communications services. In whatever we do, we try to follow these three mandates.
I am new to the FCC, but I am not new to international cooperation. I want you to know that I am particularly interested in promoting international cooperation in telecom, both in long-standing areas of common concern and in important new areas created by the events of September 11.
My premise concerning international cooperation is simply this: We have much to learn from one another. I come at our international dialogue from the perspective that most of us have enjoyed some successes as regulators, and probably most of us have endured some failures, too. Let me tell you where I don't come from: You're never going to hear me say, "Do it just the way we did it in the United States." America has a long record of regulatory involvement, and that record contains our share of failures as well as successes. Often we can learn as much from studying our failures as we can from talking about where things went well.
The U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute, under the dynamic leadership of my friend Michael Gardner, has encouraged just this kind of global exchange. That is why it has been so successful; that is why it has been able to make such a profound contribution to moving global communications forward. I am truly looking forward to working with USTTI in the months and years ahead.
While I have been at the Commission for only a few months, I have been working on international issues for a long time -- first in the U.S. Senate, then in the private sector, and after that for eight years at the Department of Commerce during the Clinton Administration.
At the Commerce Department, my focus was on promoting international trade. I worked to enhance our country's appreciation of the importance of the global economy to our own prosperity, and to involve America's enterprises, particularly our small and medium-sized enterprises, in global trade. And while I did this across the whole spectrum of our country's many business sectors, telecommunications and information industries were at the forefront of what we were trying to accomplish. I think we made impressive progress during those years in working together across national boundaries and cooperating in the important task of building commercial ties and designing investment and regulatory climates to bring the wonders of communications to people everywhere.
Finally, let me say that the FCC is here to serve the public interest, and serving the public interest includes being responsive to the perspective of international regulators, who have so much to teach us. You don't have to convince me of that. I know it's true.
My door is open. Please come and visit me and let me know how you think we can work more effectively together. I also want you to know my friend Paul Margie, who recently joined my staff as Spectrum and International Legal Advisor. Paul joined us from the staff of Senator Jay Rockefeller, where he was a formative influence on Capitol Hill in working toward enlightened telecommunications and information industries policy.
Thank you for listening, and I look forward to a long and productive relationship with you.