[ Text | Word97 ]

Connecting the Globe: The Asia - Pacific Initiative

By FCC Chairman William E. Kennard
Before the
Confederation of Indian Industry
New Delhi, India September 22, 2000

Thank you for that generous introduction.

I had the pleasure of joining Prime Minister Vajpayee at a Washington luncheon, which was hosted by Vice President Al Gore during your Prime Minister's recent visit there. It was a great moment for democracy. Here, in one room, were leaders of two of the world's leading democracies: India, the world's largest democracy, and America, the world's oldest democracy.

And it was heartening to hear the leaders of both nations speak of common themes: of linking our two societies more closely, and of harnessing the energies of both our democracies for the betterment of our own people, and for the people of the world.

For our two societies are bound together by the power of certain ideas: the power of open and free elections, the power of an open and free press.

Our predecessors, the seafarers of earlier centuries, explored continents. They sought out each other then, as when the European explorers sought out India when they discovered what came to be called the West Indies, today's Caribbean nations.

And we seek out each other now, as the new explorers of ideas.

In the century that has just closed, my country received a powerful idea from yours. It was an idea that spared my country much bloodshed, and immeasurably advanced the cause of freedom in America.

That was the idea of peaceful, nonviolent protest to achieve change, exemplified earlier in the century in your own nation by the teachings and actions of Mahatma Gandhi.

This idea was carried to my country through Martin Luther King, Jr., who studied Gandhi as he prepared for the ministry at Boston College.

King's sermons spread Gandhi's vision, and that vision became a major influence on my generation and on the maturing of my country into a modern democracy.

Now I would like to reciprocate to your country with an idea of our own.

Many of you have heard about the Initiative I launched last year that focuses FCC efforts to close closing the global digital divide. Inspired by Vice President Gore's vision of a global information society - one that includes developing, emerging, and developed countries alike - we will provide policy and regulatory assistance to key countries that are taking action to sustain their place in the global information society. We have selected countries that we believe are regional leaders for the developing world. And there is no doubt that India is such a leader - not only for developing countries in Asia-Pacific, but in some cases for the developed world as well.

This is the third continent I have had the privilege of visiting to introduce this Initiative. To date we have forged successful, on-going partnerships in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Today I am pleased to announce the commencement of the Initiative in the Asia Pacific region and to report to you that we signed the first work plan for the region right here in Delhi.

With each new continent, the Initiative achieves a higher level of promise, as the practices the Initiative advocates are linked and reinforced around the world.

The key organizing principle for the Initiative's "best practices" is competition - - competitive choice in every aspect of the telecommunications market. But we don't advocate competition simply for competition's sake; competition is the means of achieving universal access to telecommunications. This is the primary goal of our efforts - one that I know that we share.

We have found that competition invests a market with an amazing and constructive set of incentives. It exerts an upward pressure on service, choice and innovation, at the same time is exerts a downward pressure on waste, duplication and prices.

Here are the Initiative's best practices:

The roots of these principles go back to 1994, when U.S. Vice President Al Gore presented the best of what my country had learned during the early stages of the current information revolution to the ITU Development Conference in Buenos Aires. Those recommendations were later incorporated into the World Trade Organization's Basic Telecommunications Agreement.

Vice President Gore laid out the principles for how each country can become part of a Global Information Infrastructure, or "GII," a worldwide network of networks - - and how each country can participate in the new information economy.

To advance these principles, we have signed agreements with South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Argentina, Jamaica and Peru, and today we announce that we have signed an agreement with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India. We also will begin to work cooperatively with Thailand under the Initiative in the next several days. And we are also very near to finalizing an agreement with regulators in the Philippines.

As I said, we selected these nations because we believe they can serve as catalysts for change in their regions, and because their telecommunications environments are receptive to the kind of change envisioned by the GII.

The agreements we are entering into are two-way partnerships in which we share ideas and experiences on, among other things, open markets, competition, spectrum management, licensing, and agency procedure and process. These partnerships allow us to demonstrate the critical links between privatization and investment, and competition and universal service. They also allow us to discuss practical ways of implementing good policy in these areas.

We also have designed a set of courses that highlight the practical aspects of these topics. I'm pleased to announce that we have just entered into an agreement with Cisco Systems to make this regulator's course available on-line in the future.

Finally, we have made sure that we consult with our partners on a regular basis to ensure steady progress toward our goals.

Turning centuries of monopoly into competitive markets is one of the hardest tasks the modern regulator can undertake.

No incumbent monopoly yields to competition willingly. Regulators must fight for cost-based interconnection, and for the end of hidden subsidies. They must demonstrate that competition and universal access can coexist, and that privatization stimulates needed foreign investment. Spectrum also must be aggressively managed in the interest of consumers and competition.

These principles have worked in the U.S.

Domestic long-distance rates in the U.S. have dropped nearly 56 percent in real terms since competition was introduced in 1984. Some companies are offering services for as low as five-cents-a-minute.

Universal service subsidies have helped us to attain 94 percent telephone penetration.

Spectrum auctions have decreased by two-thirds the amount of time it takes to assign licenses, and ensure that the spectrum goes to those most eager to use it. Now seventy-five percent of Americans have a choice of five or more mobile carriers. Americans enjoy the lowest wireless rates in our history.

After we deregulated the equipment market in the mid-1970s, that market exploded with innovation. Instead of being tied up with burdensome technical requirements, equipment such as telephones and answering machines, and computers and modems, proliferated to meet consumer choice. The policy was so effective that by the mid-1990s, the entire telecommunications equipment industry had moved from a negative to a positive trade balance.

These policies gave the Internet the launching pad it needed in the mid-1990s to get off to such a dramatic start in the U.S.

Competitive long-distance services provided the fiber-optic backbone needed for the Internet, and local competition provided alternative ways to reach that backbone.

Our equipment and data information decisions provided the computers, modems and software needed to feed a hungry Internet.

Our flexible wireless policies have allowed the Internet to migrate from our desktops to the palms of our hands, setting the stage for lower cost broadband access.

The number of Internet users in the U.S. has jumped from 27 million in 1996 to approximately 123.6 million today . . . a 350 % increase, or about 100 % a year.

Our universal service subsidies have been expanded to help connect over 1 million school classrooms to the Internet.

I am convinced that this story can be replicated world-wide to benefit consumers on every continent. The GII will be truly global, and include an African information infrastructure, a Latin American/Caribbean information infrastructure, an Asia-Pacific information infrastructure, and a Central/Eastern European information infrastructure.

India is no stranger to success in the information technology and telecommunications industries. After all, your revenues for 1998-99 from these sectors totaled nearly $6.4 billion.

We in the United States note with great admiration Prime Minister's Vajpayee's statement in January of this year that "the entire government, indeed the entire country, has now adopted promotion of IT as its strategic goal." We commend the government of India for its new telecom law, its National Task Force on IT and Software development, the task force's bold action plan, and the venture capital fund. We also applaud the courageous decision to open the long distance market to competition, and the decision to reform your cable landing policy, to allow ISPs to use their own international gateways.

The fact that the government has already set up 12 software technology parks and along with the private sector is establishing the first hardware park in Hyderabad clearly signals that the importance of IT and telecom development.

India's success in the software market, though relatively recent, is already legendary. With an annual growth rate of more than 40%, and 1998-99 revenues of $2.65 billion, the sector boasts 10% of the value of all Indian exports, and 20% of the global market for cross border customized software. India has emerged as an IT superpower. I believe that your challenge now is to replicate that success by creating a world class, open, competitive telecommunications infrastructure.

In this area, we have a clear interest in working together. Our collaboration can help address some of the major hindrances to India's telecom development - bandwidth scarcity, service quality issues, and high interconnection prices.

Our driving vision is an eventual world network of networks, affordable and accessible to all, with multiple broadband platforms, giving the people of the world the option of many digital platforms, including cable, high-speed copper, wireless, satellite, and broadcast.

Earlier this year, I had the honor of travelling with President Clinton to a number of cities and towns in the United States to highlight his effort to close the digital divide in the United States.

Again and again, he told stories about his trip to India and how he believes technology will uplift your country.

He talked about a woman in a rural area who used the net to find health information. And he talked about a young man who used the money from a micro-loan to start a business creating web pages.

He believes, as your Prime Minister believes, that the true power of the technology revolution that is sweeping the world lies not in its power to create unimaginable wealth in the hands of a privileged few. No. The true power of the Information Age lies in its power to uplift our people; to educate our children; to bring better health care to all people; to repair the fabric of communities torn apart by poverty and despair. That is the true power of the new economy.

I know our leaders share this vision. Together we must work to make it a reality in India and in the United States. Together we can make this a reality. And I believe we are off to a great start.

Thank you.

- - FCC - -