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Statement by
Federal Communications Commission
Chairman Reed Hundt
November 7, 1996

Today America takes a major step forward in our quest to bring the benefits of the Information Age to every person in the country.

Carrying out the mandate given to us by Congress in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a joint board of federal and state commissioners today voted unanimously to urge the full FCC to adopt a rule that makes affordable, high-quality telecommunications services available to all children and teachers in every classroom and library.

The recommendation asks the FCC to create a federal-state, country-county, public-private partnership. Schools and libraries will pay something for communications technology, but the telecommunications companies will together meet them more than halfway in funding these partnerships.

By providing discounts on all telecommunications services, on internal wiring, as well as on Internet access, the bipartisan Joint Board on Universal Service has shown its dedication to ensuring schools get the full spectrum of tools they need.

Schools will be able to connect every single classroom to the Information Highway. The ramp will be a high-speed, high-bandwidth, cutting-edge connection. The discounts, tailored to each school's individual level of need, will make building and maintaining the ramp truly affordable for every school.

In the 21st Century, technology literacy will be a necessity, not a frill. To give every child in America a true opportunity at succeeding and fulfilling his or her potential, affordable access to information technology and communications services is the new ground zero. Today, we begin working to make that opportunity a reality so that the economic divide between rich and poor is not exacerbated by a digital divide between technology haves and have-nots.

Discounts will also be provided for the first time to rural health-care providers, so that they can use modern telecommunication services to provide their patients with better, faster, more efficient care. The new guidelines also reaffirm and strengthen the commitment to provide telecommunication services to low-income consumers and rural or hard-to-reach consumers. In designing the mechanisms to guarantee this service, we have maintained our firm commitment to designing policies that enhance competition.

My thanks and compliments go to the President and the Vice President for their leadership as well as to Senators Snowe, Rockefeller, Exon and Kerrey who were instrumental in making schools, libraries and rural health care providers a priority in our new telecommunications law. My thanks go to all the other bipartisan senators, congressmen and other leaders who supported this initative.

We have a lot of work ahead of us as we finalize the guidelines in the next few months. But the support and dedication of the joint board members in reaching this unanimous decision today sets us on the path to have schools and libraries that are not only institutions of learning, but true beacons that will bring the promise and potential of the 21st Century to every man, woman and child in the country.