(As Prepared for Delivery)
Thank you Bill, for that kind introduction.
It is wonderful to be here. This glorious collection of colonial art speaks of Peru's rich history; a history of mastering seemingly insurmountable challenges. A century before the arrival of the conquistadors, the Inca built a communications system of runners to link the Andes from southern Colombia to northern Chile. The residents of "the City of the Kings" set up one of the hemisphere´s first printing presses, a communications revolution as significant to that age as the Internet is to our own.
We in the Americas -- North and South -- have a tradition of seizing communications challenges and solving them. That is why I am confident that we will be able to implement the proven formula that will make the information society a reality in all our countries.
That formula was first outlined in 1994 in Buenos Aires by Vice President Al Gore in his famous speech to the first ITU Development Conference.
In that speech, he explained how, together, we can create a Global Information Infrastructure or GII; how we can create a worldwide network of networks linking the earth's peoples. He said that the building blocks for the GII are: (1) a privatized and liberalized telecommunications sector; (2) open telecommunications networks; (3) strong independent regulatory agencies with the power to break up incumbent monopolies; and (4) government policies that embrace competition. That is the framework we are pursuing in the United States. It is the framework that is guiding most countries in the Americas. And I believe it is working.
In 1996, there were only 27 million Internet users in the United States. Today, there are roughly 80 million, a nearly 200 percent increase. Our Internet traffic is doubling every 100 days, and over 40 percent of U.S. households now have Internet access. Today, the Internet and information-related technologies account for 15 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and fully one-third of the nation's real economic growth.
There is a fever in the air, a speculation about possibilities, even an expectation as almost every arena of human thinking and ingenuity joins the Internet.
But, for all the Internet's promise, a major challenge must be met if the Internet is to continue as a vehicle for social and economic growth. If we want everyone to truly benefit from the information revolution, we must work hard to transition to the next stage of that revolution, and invest in the infrastructure that will speed up the Internet and make it ubiquitous.
The average Internet user in the U.S. spends 25 hours a year waiting for websites to download. Our challenge is to make sure that as many people as possible have access to high-speed Internet connections so that the benefits of this technology can be realized throughout our society.
On this issue, you and I have a lot in common. Without high-speed and widely available Internet access, the remarkable powers of this medium will pass us by.
It is wonderful to see what is going on in Latin America to meet that challenge. Latin America has made great progress in the last decade. Today more people than at any time in its history have access to basic phone service and the Internet. This is breaking down barriers to trade and generating powerful economic growth throughout the region.
Together, we have made a great start. But we are not there yet. If we are to have a truly Global Information Infrastructure, we must have an African Information Infrastructure, an Asian Information Infrastructure, a Central European Information Infrastructure, and, of course, a Latin American Information Infrastructure. We have to make sure that all of the world's economies, developed and developing, are connected. Despite a decade of progress, regional teledensity still averages only ten lines per hundred in the Americas.
We must do better than that. We must work hard to transition to the next stage, when the development of broadband networks will speed up the Internet and make it ubiquitous.
Ubiquitous access to broadband capacity is my vision for the next phase. Ubiquitous access means that farmers in remote areas will be able to improve their businesses by selling their goods and produce online. Children will be able to sit at computers and take classes in different languages and through different universities as part of distance learning programs. Parents and grandparents who do not live near hospitals will have access to better, more reliable, medical care.
We have all worked hard on the first stage of implementing the GII agenda. But the hardest work is yet to come. To develop ubiquitous broadband, we must create transparent, effective regulatory regimes that ensure full competition. This inevitably means that regulators must curb the power of powerful incumbent carriers to create a level playing field for new entrants.
Regulators must continue to fight for cost-based interconnection, targeted and explicit subsidies for universal service and dominant carrier safeguards. We must aggressively use the tools at our disposal to pry open markets to competition. In the United States we have a local phone monopoly that is 100 years old. I know from personal experience that it takes enormous will to break down that monopoly.
This is hard work. We regulators have to make tough decisions that will be unpopular. I am reminded of John Rawls, the great political philosopher and his theory of distributive justice. Rawls argues that people in society advocate positions that advance their own economic self-interest. This is summed up in the old adage "where you stand depends on where you sit."
There is no reason to demonize this behavior. But in order to serve the people of our respective countries we must consistently take the stand that maximizes consumer welfare. And we must do so irrespective of the narrow economic interests that are argued before us.
Therefore, as we link arms with our fellow regulators, there are certain universal truths we must advocate. We know that competition is better than monopoly; that universal service and competition are not mutually exclusive; and that our communications goals require the intervention of a strong, independent regulator empowered to pry open markets and keep them open.
We face hard issues, but we do not face them alone. The Americas have a long tradition of Inter-American collaboration. In my visit here this week, I am gaining new insights into the challenges I face as I learn about your challenges. We need to join forces to make sure no one is left behind. So, I want to work with my colleagues in Latin America to make the promise of the Information revolution a reality for all our people. That is really what brought me here.
Last June, I announced a Development Initiative aimed at partnering with telecommunications leaders in the developing world, who are working to create an information infrastructure in their own countries. I made that announcement with the hope that, by working together, we could develop the strategies that will allow the Internet and broadband technologies to link peoples and economies like never before. Since then, the FCC has entered into work programs with several African countries that have embraced competition as a method for expanding access to telecommunications.
And now I am pleased to announce here in Lima the next phase of the Development Initiative. Tonight we at the FCC commit to working on a major effort to partner with our colleagues in Latin America. Under this initiative, we will share more information, exchange more ideas, cooperate in new ways, and draw more easily on our mutual experiences. We will be able to discuss communications policies and procedures on a regular basis in a more organized fashion.
The FCC does not have a lot of money to help nations struggling to establish new networks. But we do have knowledge and experience. We look forward to sharing it with you. We are eager to join together, to make your historic market-opening efforts a success, and to expand the opportunities of this great medium to all the peoples of Latin America.
We have already started with this effort. This past weekend I met in Buenos Aires with Henoch Aguiar, Argentina's new and very impressive Communications Secretary, and signed an agreement to expand regulator-to-regulator cooperation. Earlier today, I spent a stimulating and enjoyable five hours with Jorge Kunigami and his dedicated and enthusiastic staff and signed a work plan for cooperation with OSIPTEL. We are looking forward to establishing a similar partnership with colleagues in Brazil and Jamaica. We are also looking to work with other countries in the region through existing programs like the FCC's International Visitors Program, and we are committed to building on the joint efforts already underway with CITEL. Given our limited resources, we hope that targeted cooperation will benefit the region as a whole.
What has made my visit to South America so rewarding has been to see first hand your commitment to bringing the benefits of the Information revolution to everyone.
Five hundred years ago, the Inca physically linked vast areas of this continent with human runners. In this century, we can link our nations together with information running on broadband networks. We can do this together and the fruits of our collaboration will be shared across the region.
We can do this. We can do this together. We must do this for all our people.