(As Prepared for Delivery)
"THE FCC'S NEW ENFORCEMENT ETHIC"
Thank you, Russ, for that kind introduction.
I have known and admired Russ for about 20 years now. He has distinguished himself at every level of government: local, state and federal, from city councils and the Supreme Court, at the FCC and in private practice. He is a friend and a great ally to have in a tough fight. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with him.
And thank you to Lucent Technologies, Comptel, and the summit's other sponsors for inviting me here.
I'm delighted to be with you this morning.
Four years ago, some of us were at the Library of Congress for the signing of the Telecommunications Act.
I remember that day well.
Scores of lawmakers, federal officials, and industry leaders hailed the passage of the Act as a new beginning--a great blueprint for the bright future for telecommunications. We predicted that this law would fling open the doors to competition and give birth to a wonderful new era for consumers.
Itís been four years of hard work, but the promises of that day are being realized.
The FCC has spent much of the past four years writing the rules to implement the Act, defending them in the courts, and working to make local competition a reality.
And our work is paying off.
In almost every sector, new industries have sprouted, and competition is driving down rates, spurring innovations, bringing consumers more choices, better services. If anyone tells you that this Act is not working, I hope you will set them straight.
Long-distance phone rates are at all-time lows. Rates for wireless have dropped forty percent over the last three years. The FCC is pumping more spectrum into the marketplace for wireless services. And we just approved our first application by a Bell Company to enter the long distance business. In New York and many other states competition is taking hold.
But I only need look around this room to know the Act is working.
I see many successful entrepreneurs who responded to the competitive call to arms that Congress issued four years ago. I see the risk-takers. People willing to be those first pioneers willing to fight to bring competition to historic monopoly markets. Willing to innovate and infuse previously closed markets with new entrepreneurial drive and energy.
Thanks to you, consumers are enjoying the benefits that competition brings: lower rates, more choices, new services.
And as you worked to gain a foothold in these markets, you told us about the challenges that you have faced. Every one of you has stories to tell. Stories about how you have fought to bring competition to telecommunications. Many of you told us your stories. And in telling us your stories, you told us what we needed to do to create an environment for competition.
I am grateful to you for the stories that you have told us. And I am proud to say that the FCC under my chairmanship has listened to your stories. I'm proud to say that we heard your stories.
Because from those stories, we wrote the rules that made it possible for competition to take root -- from collocation, to unbundled network elements, to line sharing -- these are the rules that have helped open the doors for the CLECs to blaze a trail toward a more competitive marketplace for consumers.
We should all be proud of that. Because working together, we have helped to bring about a transformation of the telecommunications marketplace. We have a long way to go, but the pathway is clear. And the Act is working.
Now it's true we've hit some bumps in the road. We've faced time-consuming litigation that slowed our progress. But the way is becoming increasingly clear. Competition is here to stay.
We have fought hard to get to this point. We have made important gains. And we can't let anyone turn back the clock. I know you won't let that happen, and I won't let it happen. I am not going to allow anyone to transport us back to the old days of monopoly markets. No one wants to go back.
So I am looking ahead. As more competition develops, I envision a network of networks freely interconnecting to bring a wide range of services to the American public: wireline and wireless. I envision robust, lasting competition in each of the three components of the network of networks: the content, the conduit, and the intelligence.
Content is the cable, video and other programming that comes over the network. The conduits are the pipes -- the wires, cables, and spectrum - that carry content to the consumer; and the intelligence is the machines and software that process content for the consumer - the computers, browsers, set top boxes, and operating systems.
Right now the seeds are being planted to grow this network of networks, so that one day firms will interconnect freely to bring a range of services to consumers.
But we still have work to do. We face an exciting new challenge: Our challenge is to promote competition in every portion of the network. To protect competition in places where it exists and promote in places where it is lagging.
How do we do this?
First you need to continue to do the hard work of prying open these markets.
And we -- private industry and policymakers -- must preserve the gains we've fought so hard for. We must make sure that everybody lives up to the rules of the road.
I'm talking here about enforcement.
The FCC has done a lot in the past two years to step up enforcement. We've revamped and improved our formal complaint rules, increased our reliance on informal techniques to settle disputes, and created what I call the Rocket Docket to deal with formal complaints.
But we need to do a lot more. And we're doing it.
For the first time in FCC history, I've created an Enforcement Bureau to make sure we preserve and promote the competitive gains that we've made.
I'm not talking about creating another box on an organizational chart. I'm talking about creating a whole new enforcement ethic, about changing the way the FCC does business. I'm talking about changing the culture of enforcement at the FCC.
No longer does industry see us as an agency that simply writes rules. No longer do they see just a rulemaking body that occasionally does enforcement work. Enforcement is now central to our mission -- to virtually everything we do.
And I've put in charge of the new Enforcement Bureau someone who knows more about communications law than anyone I know: David Solomon.
I know David from my days as FCC General Counsel. David served as my deputy. He has spent a dozen years at the FCC. And I guarantee you he's seen it all: he knows every trick in the book -- the games people play, the enforcement end-arounds, fake-outs, tactics of delay and dispute -- you name it, he knows it.
David will cut through the tactics of delay and diversion and make sure the FCC does the right thing. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy.
David knows what I want to happen in the enforcement area. And I told him I would give him the resources he needed to get the job done. I told him to go out and find the very best staff he could find.
We knew that we would need a mix of Commission veterans and new blood. So we recruited people from outside the agency and we handpicked a topflight team of FCC veterans.
Brad Berry is David's Deputy -- a seasoned litigator, he was a partner at a major law firm and spent time at the Department of Justice. And David brought in Richard Welch, a veteran legal hand with years of experience at the FCC and in the Common Carrier Bureau. And Jane Mago, another Commission veteran. Both Jane and Richard worked with me in the General Counsel's office. They are among the most well-respected lawyers in the agency.
Once we put our team together, we designed a blueprint for a new enforcement ethic at the FCC.
I said I want an enforcement culture that is guided by three simple principles: enforcement must be firm, fast, and flexible.
We must be firm in the face of violations, fast in resolving disputes, and flexible in its approach to problem solving.
When I say firm, I mean that when companies commit a violation of the statute or our rules, there will be serious enforcement consequences. We'll listen to all sides in any dispute, but when we find violations, we'll be taking tough enforcement action.
Companies should know that we're not going to sit on our hands while firms violate our rules.
And I'm glad companies seem to be waking up to this fact. Let me tell you what's happened in recent weeks. Several firms have approached the new Bureau. They have come forward to voluntarily disclose serious rule violations. They did this because they knew the Bureau would find out about the violations and that the consequences would be more severe. Clearly, the enforcement message is getting through.
Let me tell you what else we're doing.
Our field offices will be involved in enforcement. The FCC has 25 field offices around the country. They are conducting on-site investigations, helping us enforce competition at the local level. We have people in Washington looking into possible violations. And we have a team whose sole responsibility is to make sure SBC complies with the order approving its merger with Ameritech.
Let me say a word about that merger.
A few months ago, some of you came to my office and said you were pleased with the terms of the SBC order. But some of you told me you were worried that SBC had proffered the conditions only because it thought the FCC wouldn't enforce them. Now, I believe that SBC offered those conditions in good faith. I also believe that if, for any reason, those conditions are not satisfied, we will be there to enforce them.
But of course our focus extends well beyond SBC.
Recently, the FCC created a "backsliding" team, to make sure that a BOC doesn't violate the terms of an order granting long distance approval. Brad Berry is leading that team. He's working closely with the New York Public Service Commission and the Common Carrier Bureau to make sure Bell Atlantic lives up to its obligations in New York.
Second, enforcement must be fast.
We must decide cases quickly, decisively and clearly. We will manage the case docket aggressively. And we're going to work with you to solve disputes as rapidly as possible.
In these markets, where changes happen at lightening speeds, we can't allow important decisions to languish on a docket somewhere. We can't issue long and confusing decisions that raise more questions than they answer. In the world where you compete everyday, justice delayed is justice denied.
I've heard from many of you on this point. One thing I always hear is that you want us to be faster. You want speedy solutions to your problems -- and that's what we're going to give you. You need swift, clear answers to pending disputes -- fast and clear answers that will benefit all sides (even the sides that lose) and let everyone know what their obligations are in real time.
So we're not going to sit on cases. We're going to resolve them swiftly.
In the last two years, the Common Carrier Bureau has done yeoman's work to reduce the backlog of cases. The Enforcement Bureau is now building on CCB's successes, making speed one of the new watchwords at the agency.
Last week, a satellite carrier missed a deadline for public interest programming. Within days, the Bureau had launched an investigation.
A few weeks ago, a staff attorney brought an order to David Solomon's office so Solomon could review and sign it.
I don't know how many of you are lawyers, but I can tell you from my experience in private practice that associates often kill themselves trying to draft documents on deadline. Then they sit around and wait for the partner to review and edit it.
Well, sometimes that same thing happens at the FCC.
But in this instance, the FCC lawyer got on the elevator, returned to his office, and received a phone call telling him that David had reviewed and signed the order and that it was ready for public release.
That, my friends, is fast.
Last month, the Bureau was reviewing a longstanding case involving an interconnection dispute.
The case raised some complex legal issues.
The staff decided that to issue a written decision it would need more information from the parties. We called them in to see if a settlement was possible.
Within an hour, they had a negotiated agreement in hand. Within a week, the case was over. Both parties walked away satisfied, and the FCC had moved on to other issues.
We've made a lot of progress in this area, but getting faster is a big task -- one we can't tackle alone.
You have helped us in the past and we need you to continue to do so.
If you have a problem, contact us. And please do so before filing a formal complaint.
Recently, a CLEC contacted us. The CLEC said it was having problems interconnecting with an incumbent local exchange carrier. The problem appeared to be confined to a couple of specific geographic areas. One person on our staff picked up the phone, called the ILEC, and in a matter of days the issue was resolved: no muss, no fuss, no need to file a formal complaint or litigate.
All issues don't lend themselves to such quick resolution. But some do.
So help us solve problems faster:
Before contacting us, do your homework.
Carefully document problems over time.
Identify which rule sections and statutory provisions you think are being violated.
Make sure to check your interconnection agreements to see how they affect the issue.
And bring us clear, adequate information and documentation to support an enforcement action.
Let me also encourage potential litigants to take a hard look at potential cases and bring us cases that really matter. Our resources are finite, and the industry needs to use discretion in filing complaints if you want us to be there when it really counts.
Now I want to talk about flexible enforcement.
I know you can't always file complaints.
If we work together, I'm convinced we can solve many problems without having to file formal complaints.
The Enforcement Bureau is moving beyond the formal litigation process and solving problems with creative, flexible solutions.
When someone contacts us about a problem, the Bureau is going to respond proactively. It will look into alternatives to formal litigation and work with firms informally to help settle issues.
A lot of times, informal talks between staff and parties can do wonders, facilitating a private solution, avoiding the need for investigation and litigation. And in some cases, the Enforcement Bureau is going to offer companies initial staff views about a particular problem -- views that might help them resolve a dispute quickly.
That will save the parties' time and money. And it's good for competition and consumers.
After companies do file complaints, the Bureau's still going to work on finding solutions
-- something all sides can support.
Recently, the Bureau considered a case that involved a set of fairly easy legal issues. But the staff still had to draft a written opinion, which can slow down the process. We brought in the parties, suggested they settle, and they did.
We aren't simply taking up cases as they come. We're being proactive, looking for prime candidates for settlement, assessing which ones are most important, putting them in priority, identifying the frivolous cases and then dismissing them.
We might ask you for additional information about a case, ask for further discovery. But whatever we do we won't simply sit back and wait for complaints to arrive at our doorsteps. We're out there, looking for problems, stepping into the markets and asking you to work with us to solve disputes fast.
Recently we heard about an ILEC planning to incorrectly bill its customers. We brought in the company in question and basically told them to cut it out.
We took an aggressive, proactive approach to problem-solving. Our approach worked. And it will continue to work.
We've made major strides in recent years and those gains have to be preserved.
I won't allow anyone to roll back these gains, I know you don't want to see them rolled back, and there's only one way to preserve them: as a team.
We must work together to nurture the seeds of competition, sharing information, keeping open the lines of communication, making sure the Act continues to work.
If we can get to where we are today, I know we can keep forging ahead.
We will do so by enforcing the laws -- by being firm, fast, and flexible.
That's my enforcement vision, that's where I want us to go, and with your help I know we will get there soon.