Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
United States Senate
October 1, 1997
In recent weeks I have had the pleasure of visiting with you and members of the Committee. I am grateful for the time that you and your colleagues have spent with me, and for the many insights you have shared about communications policy. I very much look forward to continuing that dialogue.
I would especially like to thank Senators Feinstein, Boxer, and Moseley-Braun for introducing me today and for their generous remarks.
Mr. Chairman, I am honored to have this opportunity. And I feel very privileged that President Clinton showed his confidence in me in an area of such importance to the country.
It has also been a great privilege to have been General Counsel at the FCC for the last four years and to have the opportunity to work under the dynamic leadership of Chairman Hundt. It has also been a pleasure to work with Commissioners Quello, Chong, and Ness, each of whom has served the Commission with great distinction. If confirmed, I look forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Ness.
Throughout the nomination process, I have come to know the other nominees as well. Together they would bring an impressive array of talents to the work of the FCC. I look forward to working with each of them.
If you would permit me, Mr. Chairman, I would like to take just a moment and introduce members of my family here with me today.
My mother, Helen Kennard, travelled here from Los Angeles to be with me, as did my sister, Gail Madyun and my niece, Jihan Madyun. My in-laws are here from Greenville, South Carolina, Reverend and Mrs. James Kennedy, as is my sister-in-law, Frankie Kennedy. I am proud that they are all here with me today.
I am also proud to introduce my wife, Deborah Kennedy. In addition to being my best friend and partner, she is Managing Counsel at Mobil Corporation and I am fortunate that she is able to manage me in her spare time.
With your indulgence, Mr. Chairman, I would like to tell you a bit more about my family, as a way of introducing myself to you and the Committee.
I lost my father to cancer in 1995 while I was at the FCC. We were very close, and he was proud when I became the FCC's General Counsel. I feel his presence every day of my life.
From the time my father was a little boy, he dreamed of designing buildings. After fighting in the European Theater during World War II -- and thanks to the GI Bill -- he went to college. He became an architect and eventually founded his own firm.
My father loved to design buildings that brought people together. He loved to design churches and synagogues and hospitals and libraries and housing projects. He loved to build buildings that, in turn, built communities. In his life, he won many awards for using architecture to improve communities, especially lower income communities.
He always believed that one's work should be weaved into the fabric of building communities -- reaching out to everyone -- of all colors -- leaving no one behind, and promoting values that enrich our souls, not just our pockets.
My mother is here today, so I hope I won't embarrass her by talking about her. My mother grew up on a farm in Tulare, California, a small rural community in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California.
She grew up playing with the children of migrant workers and, from them, she learned to speak Spanish at the same time that she learned English. She also learned from them lessons that shaped the course of her life.
After college, my mother earned an advanced degree in Bilingual Education and devoted her professional life to teaching English to the huge population of non-English- speaking students in the Los Angeles school district. I remember growing up and watching the joy that my mother gained from helping those kids from around the world learn English so that they'd have a fair chance to enjoy the wonderful opportunities of our country.
My mother learned early in her life the value of breaking down barriers to communications. She learned the power of communications to bring people of different backgrounds together. She saw intuitively the link between being able to communicate and achieving success in our society.
From my mother and my father I learned so many important lessons that I will bring to the challenges that await me.
Just as my father saw how buildings bring communities together, I understand how communications technologies can build communities and how they increasingly weave together the fabric of our society.
There is no question that communications technology is transforming our lives in dramatic ways: the way we communicate, the way we do business, the way our children learn. We all know that it is giving us new ways to create opportunity, strengthen our
communities, and bring us together as a country.
We also know that we must ensure that our telecommunications laws and policies maximize these benefits for America, and not thwart them.
With the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress has given the country a new framework for realizing this goal. It calls for a fundamentally correct shift from monopoly to competition, from government micromanagement to common-sense, pro-consumer deregulation -- all the while striving through universal service and other public interest principles to ensure that no area of the country and no child will be left behind.
I very much hope to have the opportunity to work with this Committee and other members of Congress to complete the job of implementing the 1996 Act.
And in doing so, I would be guided by three fundamental principles: competition, community, and common sense.
The first principle is competition -- competition in the service of consumers. Competition is the cornerstone of the 1996 Act, and the FCC must continue to promote competition in every sector of the communications marketplace -- in local telephone service, long distance, wireless, international, satellites, broadcast and cable television, and Internet access. Competition must come everywhere. Each area presents its own unique problems, but the need for competition is beyond challenge.
But competition must not be the goal in itself. It is the FCC's job to work with the Congress to make sure that competition serves consumers. In my meetings with members of this Committee during the past few weeks, many of you have expressed concern about the need for policies that keep rates in check for local phone service and cable television service, in particular.
In the last four years, FCC decisions have led to rate reductions in long distance, international, and wireless phone service. We need the same outcome for local telephone and cable TV. And if confirmed, I will work with the Congress and my new colleagues to make this a top priority for the FCC.
Ultimately, the best way to keep rates low is through competition. If confirmed, I intend to ask the hardworking FCC staff to roll up their sleeves once again and mount a new offensive for competition. By the way, having worked with the FCC staff these past four years, I have never been part of a more dedicated or hardworking team of people. The FCC staff has worked around the clock, week after week, month after month to do the job that you gave us in the 1996 Act. And I hope that the FCC staff will continue to receive the support of this Committee.
The second principle that will guide me is community. I believe that the 1996 Act embodies Congress' view that the American people want and expect communications policy to promote competition, but that they want more. They want communications to serve communities -- all of our communities, and everyone within each of those communities.
If confirmed, one of my principal goals will be to ensure that the benefits of the communications revolution are available to everyone. Whether you live in a metropolitan area, a rural community, or a distressed inner city, communications technology should give you the same benefits and opportunities. I will work hard to ensure that the communications revolution is inclusive -- not exclusive -- and that small businesses, women, and minorities are not left on the sidelines of the communications revolution.
The third principle is common sense. The FCC should always act with common sense.
The Commission's rules should be clear and easy to understand. They should be practical, and reflect an understanding of the markets and businesses they affect. And they should be in touch with people's real needs and daily demands.
Common sense means regulating only when necessary, and writing rules that are narrowly tailored and don't impose unnecessary burdens.
And I believe that common sense also means making the FCC a place for fair and informed debate. It should be a place where anyone with a serious idea about communications policy can come forward and get a fair hearing and be respected, and where no person or industry gets any special favors. It should be a place where problems get solved.
The digital age has been referred to as "The Age of Optimism" -- an age in which technology fuels economic growth and gives us new ways to solve our country's problems.
Well I am optimistic too. I am optimistic that, working together, we can develop policies that will ensure that new communications technologies deliver benefits to all Americans.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I believe that it is absolutely critical for us to work together -- Congress and the FCC, Republicans and Democrats, the federal government and the state and local governments, all five FCC Commissioners -- all cooperating, working
together to improve our communications policies for the country.
Thank you and I would be pleased to answer any questions.