Text Version


Washington, DC

SEPTEMBER 15, 1997

[as prepared for delivery]

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Institute s Issues Conference. Special thanks to Congressman Xavier Becerra, the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and of the Institute. Congressman Becerra believes strongly in the imperative of making telecommunications accessible to all communities in America to empower our nation to compete in the 21st Century.

I would also like to commend all of the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Institute Board of Directors, and Dr. Sylvia Golombek, Director of the Institute, for their commitment to improving opportunity for Hispanic- Americans, and, indeed, for all Americans. Thanks to all of you who have come here today from across the country to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month for including me in this special event.

It has been the greatest privilege and honor of my life to serve as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. I haven t gotten much sleep during the past three years and ten months, but it has been a great time.

The most gratifying part of this job is to see how telecommunications is changing people s lives.

During the past four years, American consumers enjoyed lower prices and more choices for telecommunications services due to the FCC s stand for competition. Prices for using a cellular telephone dropped 27% since 1994. In areas of the U.S. where the new Personal Communications Service (PCS) operators compete with cellular providers, wireless rates dropped by 25%.

Following the FCC s May 1997 orders to promote universal service, reduce access charge and reform prices caps, AT&T lowered its basic schedule domestic long distance rates by approximately 5% in daytime and 15% at night. Hispanic consumers, like all Americans, will benefit greatly from these lower prices.

In 1997, the amount Hispanics paid out for telecommunications services was estimated at approximately $350 billion dollars -- a 65% increase since 1990.

In Hispanic households, 40% of all utility costs are spent on telephone service. In 1994 alone, U.S. Hispanics paid $6.13 billion on telephone bills, an increase of 23% since 1992. The average Hispanic household spends $793 per year on telephone utilities. This is 16% more than non-Hispanic households.

Last month, the FCC reformed the international settlement rate system, the method by which telephone companies in different countries are compensated for completing the connections necessary to make calls. These new rates will drop the cost of calling internationally by 80% from $1.00 per minute to $.20 per minute over the next five years for all American consumers.

Before our new rules, $.70 of every dollar spent on telephone calls made to Mexico was paid to the Mexican telephone companies. Hispanic-Americans can expect to see tremendous savings in their phone bills.

When Congress passed the 1996 Act, it had the insight and wisdom to also pass the Snowe-Rockefeller Amendment that would ensure all schools and libraries have access to the Internet and advanced telecommunication services. On May 7, 1997, in our Universal Service proceeding, we adopted rules that will guarantee schools and libraries access to the Internet and we created a universal service fund that will make $2.25 billion a year available to connect schools and libraries to the information highway.

Why is this needed? Schools using computers connected to telecommunications networks to enhance the curriculum experience higher attendance rates, higher levels of interest among students and improved reading and writing scores.

During the Clinton Administration, 8 million of the 12 million new jobs that have been created have been in the telecommunications and information sectors.

Ensuring that all children have access to the Internet is essential for continued growth of our economy. Communication revenues account for 60% of the GNP and the job growth in the communications sector is 65% higher than in the overall economy. It is a pleasure to see new interests growing in this field.

For instance, tomorrow the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is launching a national effort to have its members volunteer in schools to help them develop the technology plans required to apply for the universal service funding, and to prepare for this program. I commend SHPE for this effort and encourage it to continue its good work.

Cathy Sandoval, Director of the FCC s Office of Communications Business Opportunities, is one of the people who have been working diligently to make these resources available to all schools and libraries, particularly those in low-income and inner-city areas. A Rhodes Scholar, Cathy personifies the American dream. Raised in East Los Angeles and then in the City of Montebello adjacent to L.A., Cathy went from public schools to earn her B.A. at Yale, a Master s degree at Oxford and a law degree at Stanford. Dedicated to promoting opportunity and improving service to all communities, Cathy has been a tremendous resource for the public during her tenure at the FCC.

This summer she has visited the South Side of Chicago with Congressman Bobby Rush to speak with school principals about the FCC's universal service program. Last week, she and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez visited Katella High School in Anaheim, California, where high school students, principals, administrators and librarians demonstrated the internet s capacity to enhance education. Like the keys to the Magic Kingdom, connecting schools and libraries will give every child access to the keyboard to the future.

In 1994, during my first year as FCC Chairman, Cathy and I travelled to East Los Angeles to address the National Hispanic Media Coalition. I was the first FCC Chairman or Commissioner ever to visit East L.A. Having practiced law in Los Angeles for 5 years, it was wonderful to return to that great and dynamic city.

In the entertainment capital of the world, the Hispanic Media Coalition acts as a guardian of the public interest. It holds stations accountable for serving Hispanic- American communities, ensuring that all of us will benefit from a diversity which makes America richer.

The Hispanic Media Coalition also monitors the stations record in fostering equal employment opportunity. I hope it watches stations closely to ensure that stations follow the new requirements for children's programming that became effective on the first of this month. A key component to ensuring success of our kidvid rules is to hear from parents, teachers and kids on how broadcasters are doing, so I encourage you all to watch and report.

Since I convinced Cathy to move from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in 1994, she has weathered ice storms, government shutdowns, the heat and humidity of Washington in August and my penchant for last minute editing. Throughout it all, she has worked tirelessly to increase opportunities for small, minority and women-owned communications businesses and the communities they serve. She tripled the FCC s monthly outreach mailing to small businesses from 800 in 1994 to more than 2,400 in 1997.

Cathy has helped draft the rules for the FCC auctions where small businesses, including many Hispanic-owned firms, acquired more than 2,300 licenses to offer wireless communications services. She has been a strong and consistent voice for improving service to the community by fostering competition, opportunity and diversity. I've been fortunate to work with her over the years.

In recognition of these accomplishments, last week I gave Cathy the FCC Chairman s Special Achievement Award. Cathy, thank you and congratulations once again. I know that you will continue to do great things in the future.

Now, I must admit that Cathy has kept me busy. In 1995 on my one-year anniversary as Chairman of the FCC, I helped launch LatinoNet, an on-line forum providing news, information on grants, scholarships and resource relevant to the Latino community. This July, I was privileged to speak to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce s First International Business Conference.

During my tenure, I have been honored to receive the Champion of Hope Award from the Latina organization Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE). I stand with HOPE for a communications industry that fosters opportunity, quality children s television, and access for all communities. And, last year, I was honored to receive the Creo Award from TELACU for leadership in bringing the information highway to our children s classrooms.

The legacy we leave for the American public must be competition, opportunity and improved service. As I look back, I believe we have much to be proud of, though there is still much to do.

Thank you very much.