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March 18, 1999

Press Statement of FCC Chairman William E. Kennard on FCC's Action to
Increase Consumer Access to Long Distance Rate Information

Yesterday I testified on Capitol Hill about my vision for a new FCC. I talked about how in a world of increasingly competitive telecommunications markets, the FCC will need to narrow its scope, and focus on those core functions that spur real competition, rather than prescribing regulations that purport to be a surrogate for competition.

And as I testified, that vision of a new FCC is already becoming a reality. This item is a good example of that new reality, because long distance rate disclosure goes to the heart of one of the core FCC functions, empowering consumers with information they need to be savvy shoppers in a competitive marketplace.

Think about when you walk into the grocery store and you're trying to figure out which brand of cereal to buy, or which soft drink, or which bar of soap. It sure helps that you can compare the prices by looking at the labels that they stick on the shelves below the products. You don't always buy the cheapest product, of course, but the more information you have to compare the products, the better choice you'll make.

Consumers should be able to do comparison shopping for long distance service just as easily as they can do it in the grocery store.

This is becoming more and more crucial because consumers now have hundreds of long distance companies to choose from. We're always urging consumers to shop around, but it's hard to shop around if you can't tell the difference between the companies. So increasing competition requires that we get information into consumer's hands, and then that information allows consumers to be better shoppers, which increases competition even more, and thus we produce a very consumer-friendly competitive cycle, with minimum government involvement.

In fact, requiring public disclosure should reduce burdens on carriers, because it is intended to replace a similar, but rigid, disclosure requirement that carriers currently satisfy through their tariff filings here at the FCC, filing that we intend to do away with. The public disclosure requirement we adopt today serves the same consumer public disclosure requirement we adopt today serves the same consumer goals as tariffing, but in a way that gives carriers more flexibility and avoids some of the other burdens associated with formal tariffing.

And public disclosure is in the best interests of long distance companies in any event, or at least the responsible ones. I remember thee used to be a clothing store in town whose slogan was: "An educated consumer is our best customer." If you are dedicated to offering value to consumers, to truly building the better mousetrap, then you want consumers to be as educated as possible.

So this is a win-win item, and item that reflects the core mission of the new FCC, and I am happy to support it.