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July 15, 1997

Welcome to this special Commission meeting. We are here to receive the just-completed report of the National Reliability and Interoperability Council. This report is the result of the work of over 200 of the nation's top network engineers, who have been working on it for more than a year.

The Council has been advising this Commission and the industry on telephone network reliability matters for more than five years.

The challenges keep changing. Ensuring the reliability of the network has become more difficult due to the rapid proliferation of new technologies and by the entry of hundreds of new companies into the telecommunications business. Both of these trends will be accelerated by the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Last year we asked the Council to advise us on how the goals of Section 256 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 could be achieved. Section 256, entitled "Coordination for Interconnectivity," has two fundamental purposes:

  1. to promote nondiscriminatory accessibility by the broadest number of users and vendors of communications products and services to public telecommunications networks used to provide telecommunications services and

  2. to ensure the ability of users and information providers to seamlessly and transparently transmit and receive information between and across telecommunications networks.

The Act states the Commission is required to establish procedures to oversee coordinated network planning, and that it may participate in the development of public telecommunications network interconnectivity standards, particularly to promote access to network services by individuals with disabilities and information services by subscribers of rural telephone companies.

And all this is to be done while ensuring the reliability of the network and accomplishing the primary goal of the Telecommunications Act, as stated in its first paragraph, "to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies."

Today we will hear what industry and the Commission need to do achieve those goals while ensuring the reliability and robustness of the network.

I am particularly interested in hearing the Council's recommendations on how we should address a major new challenge--the dramatic increase of Internet traffic on the public switched network.

I know the Council has spent time and energy in developing consensus recommendations in this area. Internet traffic in the U.S. is said to be doubling every six months. There has been concern about the increasing strain this is putting on the public switched network. That is why in November of last year, I asked the NRIC to consider Internet usage and what needs to be done.

I look forward to hearing the Council's recommendations.

Let me welcome Ivan Seidenberg and his colleagues.



July 15, 1997

I want to thank the members of the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council and their hard-working staffs for the report they have presented today. I know that this report represents thousands of hours of work, by more than 200 people who volunteered their time for this critically important task.

The goals set out in Section 256 of the Telecommunications Act must be realized if we are to have real, effective competition throughout the telecommunications sector. Achieving those goals will only be possible with effective industry cooperation. The consensus recommendations you have developed will help foster such cooperation and we will study them very closely.

The telecommunications industry relies upon its networks and those networks are only as reliable and useful as their weakest links. That's why the kind of cooperation represented by this report is so critical to the proper functioning of the public switched network and why I am so grateful for all your efforts.

It is clear from what we have heard that we will need a concerted effort to act on the recommendations contained in this report. That means reaching beyond the members of the council to involve all the companies and organizations that have a role. I look forward to the NRIC symposium in mid-September in Reston which will provide an opportunity to further publicize the Council's recommendations.

In addition to acting on this report, we need to remain vigilant about the Council's central function -- ensuring the reliability of the public switched network. We know that technology will advance, we expect number of service providers will grow, and we know reliability challenges will continue.

As I noted in my introductory comments, I believe we need to focus more attention on the impact of the Internet. I continue to hear anecdotal reports about the strains that the exploding growth of the Internet is putting on the public switched network, particularly the local loop. The planning tool the council has developed is designed to address this issue, but it is fair to say we do not yet know whether it will resolve the issue. I wonder if we have adequate data on the congestion that is being caused by Internet usage. Anecdotes don't add up to useful data.

To make intelligent decisions, industry and the FCC need more accurate data -- as soon as possible. I understand that in less than a year some video game manufacturers plan to market video games that will enable millions of teenagers to use the telephone to connect to the Internet to compete with their friends across town or across the country. Streaming audio and video will increase demand for bandwidth even more. All indications are that the growth of Internet traffic will continue or even accelerate.

In 1993 the Council told us that the average call on the public switched network was completed on the first attempt in 99.9 percent of the cases. Is that still true? Would the outage data the Council tracks tell us if it were?

Internet congestion is just one of the important issues that this Council might need to look at.

There are other issues, of course. The Council's report suggests new digital technologies like xDSL can affect the reliability of the network, at least in terms of interference in a local loop binder group.

Several major cable television companies have plans to enable millions of cable TV customers to buy megabit-per-second access to the Internet. What impact will that have on the public switched network?

Another key issue is security. You have devoted time and energy to these issues, and I also know that the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection is hard at work on recommendations for reducing vulnerabilities. I hope that the Council will have a continuing role to play in these areas.

As you can see, there is much for this Council to do in the coming months. And early next year, we will form the next incarnation of the Council. I hope that you will work with us in the coming months as we rewrite and broaden the charter of the Council and strive to keep ahead of the technology curve.

The Council has served this Commission and the American public well in its nearly six years of existence. Thank you for that service, and thanks for your willingness to continue to serve.

I particularly want to thank Ivan Seidenberg for agreeing to chair the Council and Jim Keegan on the FCC staff who has been the liaison between the Commission and the Council since its inception.

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