Small Connectiong the Globe Banner


The communications revolution is now sweeping the globe. Dynamic developments and innovations in communications technology are transforming our daily lives—from the way we do business, to the ways in which our children learn, and our health care is provided.

In 1994, Vice President Al Gore challenged us to build a Global Information Infrastructure (GII) that would allow every nation to connect with the "information highway." In some parts of the world, the vision of a Global Information Infrastructure is fast becoming a reality. For those countries, improvements in technology are expanding the potential of individuals, industries, and communities to participate in the global economy in ways unimaginable only a few short years ago. Yet, for many developing countries, the vision of a GII remains a dream deferred. Throughout some parts of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, many people have yet to make their first telephone call, and many remain unconnected to the global village.

Although it is slowly narrowing, there remains a gap between the information "haves" and the information "have-nots" throughout the world. This gap is reflected in the disparity in the use of communications technology by developed and less developed countries. In order to eliminate this disparity, developed nations must reinforce their commitments to pursue productive partnerships with less developed countries and to provide assistance when necessary.

All of us come from nations with long and rich histories. Speaking personally, I decided to become involved in telecommunications because of my father. From the time my father was a boy, he dreamed of designing buildings. He was fortunate to fulfill his lifelong dream. He became an architect. He designed buildings to bring communities together, especially those in poor African American communities. In fact, much of his work involved rebuilding communities destroyed by race riots during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1960s. He designed housing projects and community centers, and churches and hospitals. He always believed that one’s work should be woven into the fabric of building communities that include people of all nationalities, religions and colors – and that promote values that enrich us as a people.

In a very real sense, we too are architects--designing and building a dynamic international community. We too are fundamentally involved in bringing people together, connecting communities with one another. Together we can continue to draft the blueprint for this grand, global economy where individuals, communities and nations can all participate.

As Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) I have sought to ensure that the revolution in technology is broad and inclusive, and that the notable progress taking place in the telecommunications industry benefits all people, regardless of nationality, race or income. In this effort, I have been guided by four basic principles which I believe have global applicability, and may be particularly significant for developing countries: (a) privatization, liberalization and competition; (b) deregulation as competition develops; (c) universal access to communications services and technology; and (d) opportunity for underserved populations.

globe icon Privatization, liberalization and competition throughout the communications marketplace

In order to build the modern telecommunications infrastructure significant private capital is needed. Privatization, alone, however, is not enough. Monopolies, even if privatized, are far less likely to provide efficient, innovative and inexpensive services to the public. Market liberalization allows competition to flourish by attracting the investments needed to build competing networks.

globe icon Deregulation as competition develops

Although government may no longer best be suited to act as a provider of telecommunications services, it has an important role to play. It should promote open and competitive markets by establishing independent regulatory systems and fostering, where possible, an environment free from unnecessary regulation. As competition develops and matures, governments can spend more time ensuring that markets operate efficiently and less time imposing regulations. Where competition exists, the market, and not government, becomes the most effective regulator.

globe icon Universal access to communications services and technology

Competitive policies can lead to expanded telecommunications access by making services cheaper and requiring competing carriers to serve underserved populations. However, there are clearly some remote and high cost areas where market forces alone will not result in the satisfactory deployment of services. We, too, in the United States are challenged by how best to proceed with universal access in some parts of our country. One of the greatest challenges facing regulators is to develop policies that both will succeed in a globally competitive environment, and will improve telecommunications service to these areas. Developing effective and innovative universal access programs for under-served populations is a challenge for us all—from the United States to Zimbabwe, from Bahrain to Bolivia, and from Kazakhstan to China. In order to provide affordable services to these areas, subsidies are necessary to make up the difference between the costs of such service and the amount consumers can pay. These universal subsidy schemes are most effective when they are targeted, explicit and competitively neutral.

globe icon Opportunity for underserved populations

Market forces alone may not always provide opportunity to historically disenfranchised or isolated segments of society. Thus, government should provide opportunities for diverse ethnic groups and women to participate in the burgeoning telecommunications marketplace as owners, partners and providers of telecommunications products and services. Such actions can allow the benefits of the Information Revolution to expand exponentially. After all, the benefits of the Information Age should not be the exclusive domain of big business, the affluent or those who live in urban centers.

In the course of my tenure as FCC Chairman, I have had the opportunity to engage in productive and instructive dialogues with my counterparts from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Remarkably, many of us have recognized that we face similar challenges in promoting, maintaining, and expanding competition in the dynamic telecommunications sector. Policymakers in newly privatized markets who are facing numerous regulatory issues for the first time have expressed interest in examining comparative models as they explore their own solutions.

I believe there is considerable value in establishing an independent regulatory system to oversee the transition from monopoly systems to competitive markets, and I believe the United States has demonstrated a strong commitment to competition and market liberalization. While the U.S. model may not be appropriate for every developing nation, the principles and procedures that American regulators have adopted over time can provide guidance to policymakers in some developing countries.

Based on this belief and numerous inquiries from our counterparts abroad, I directed the FCC’s International Bureau to prepare a summary of some of the basic regulatory issues our agency has dealt with over the years. Thus, we have published, CONNECTING THE GLOBE: A REGULATOR'S GUIDE TO BUILDING A GLOBAL INFORMATION COMMUNITY.

The text was produced in the spirit of providing a comparative model for countries at various stages of telecommunications development. The guidebook does not examine every issue in telecommunications, nor is it a substitute for a primer on the ever-dynamic industry. Instead, it is our effort to identify some of the regulatory challenges we all face, and to share aspects of the FCC’s experience that might be instructive to regulators in new environments. These nine chapters represent the major issues facing telecommunications regulators in today’s environment, and many of the sections examine the broad principles outlined above.

This was a collaborative project. It involved the participation and cooperation of several bureaus and offices at the FCC. I would like to acknowledge and thank the Chiefs, Directors and staff of the bureaus and offices for their efforts and contributions to this volume, and particularly to the International Bureau for its coordination of this project.

It is my hope that this guidebook, which is also accessible on the FCC Website, will contribute to the existing body of resources currently available. I welcome the opportunity to explore innovative and cooperative methods to address the challenges facing developing countries, and I look forward to continuing the productive dialogue on telecommunications issues facing our global community.

Photo of Chairman Kennard

William E. Kennard
Federal Communications Commission
Washington DC
June 1999

Table of Contents | Next Section