STATEMENT OF FCC CHAIRMAN WILLIAM E. KENNARD
RE SECTION 706 OF THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1996 AND BANDWIDTH
April 22, 1998
Today, the communications industry is deploying broadband technologies to meet the growth in demand for faster communications services. From the Internet to digital cable to digital television, all communications are becoming bits. Bits that can be voice, video, audio, data or more. Bits that can be massaged, processed, and manipulated to allow telephone calls to begin in English and end in Spanish. Bits that can revolutionize the way our children learn in school, in libraries after school, and at home.
But those bits do little good if they can't reach us. So as communications become bits, an important focus of communications policy must be to ensure that our country has the bandwidth to transport the bits.
Residential consumers, schools, libraries, rural health care facilities, and small businesses often must struggle with the bandwidth limitations of the dialup network. In a variety of respects, broadband capability is not available to most Americans. We must find ways to bridge the digital divide. A recent survey, for example, found that whites were more than twice as likely as African Americans to have used the World Wide Web in the previous week. Almost 60% of white high school and college students have used the Web in the past six months -- but only 30% of African-American students can say the same. Our goal should be to promote development of a broadband network that does not separate us into a nation of information haves and have-nots.
How do we do this? First, we need to learn more. We need to make sure all lanes of the Information Highway are able to deliver high-speed capabilities. We must understand what obstacles exist, particularly in rural and inner-city communities. The Commission will examine both questions more closely as we implement Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act later this year.
Our goal is to promote the deployment of broadband services to all Americans, including rural consumers, who might otherwise be left behind their urban counterparts in the receipt of such services, and students, who need access to such services in their classrooms to prepare for the technological demands of the 21st century. We must continue to promote the deployment of bandwidth in a procompetitive manner consistent with our historical national commitment to universal service.