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Remarks of
William E. Kennard, chairman
Federal Communications Commission Before the
World Economic Development Congress
Washington, DC
September 23, 1999



Thank you, Cas Skrzypczak, and a thank you to Cas's company, Telcordia, for hosting this forum. It's exciting to think that coming together as peers in a discussion such as this will be a significant step toward working together as colleagues in the months and years to come.

The earliest visionaries of how digital technologies would transform our world -- including our own Vice President Al Gore -- knew the day would soon come when business and policy would intersect not only on the local and national levels, but also on the global scale.

Vice President Gore's own vision was -- and is -- to connect the world through a Global Information Infrastructure that knows no geographic, language or time boundaries.

I share that vision.

Having said that, I must add that it's sometimes hard when you contemplate vast concepts, like the Global Information Infrastructure, to translate that into terms that everyone understands.

What it comes down to, I believe, is that the ideas and passion that drive us to do what we do... ultimately mean that all the world's people can have basic telephone service and do what everybody in this room does every day – log-on to the Internet.

Let us not begin to take any of these abilities for granted as long as any person in any part of the world still lacks them.

In much of the world, basic telephone service is two villages away and the Internet is something you hear about on the radio.

So our job here -- and our responsibility -- as I see it, is, first, to open a truly global dialogue on how we will ensure that the communications tools of our age connect and benefit everyone. Then, we must take the actions necessary to do it.

Connecting people is both a public and personal subject to me. It is public because, as chairman of the FCC, I took the oath and accepted the challenge to foster a communications system that serves not only the U.S., but also the world.

It is personal because of my father.

My father was not in the communications field. From the time he was a little boy in Los Angeles, he dreamed of doing one thing in the world: designing buildings. He was a soldier in World War II and, thanks to a government program for war veterans, he had the opportunity to go to college, and did, in fact, become an architect.

My father loved to design the buildings that bring communities together, especially buildings in poor, African-American communities.

He designed housing projects and community centers, and churches and hospitals. He loved this work. He loved it because it allowed him to design the buildings that are at the heart of any community... the buildings that connect any community.

I am truly my father's son, because I believe that all of us here, too, are architects, designing, building, and connecting a grand international community.

Our community is connected not by structures, but by infrastructures... the visible and invisible lines of connection that lie under oceans and over clouds and crisscross the air nearly everywhere in between.

Our challenge is to use those infrastructures to connect all members of our global community.

There is much for all of us to do.

Like the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has said, "the defining perspective of the Cold War was ‘division;’ the defining perspective of globalization is ‘integration.’ The symbol of the Cold War was the Wall, which divided everyone. The symbol of globalization is the World Wide Web which unites everyone."

The challenge we share is the challenge to come together to make sure that the World Wide Web does, in fact, unite everyone.

From a commercial standpoint, that means abiding by established technical and business standards. From a regulatory standpoint, that means transparent, predictable non-discriminatory regulatory regimes.

We must approach connecting the global community from both these perspectives, commercial and regulatory.

There is no question that the Internet is driving both. And that we are at a global public policy crossroads because of it.

The Internet is the fastest-growing technology the world has ever known.

In December of 1995, fewer than 10 million people worldwide were using the Internet. Now, almost 200 million people are linked to it. In 10 years, that number will increase to more than a billion.

The Internet's impact is profound. It connects people like nothing we have ever seen. It combines the mass influence of broadcasting and the personal connection of the telephone. The Internet means, quite simply, the death of distance.

Whenever a new technology takes hold, governments react in one of two ways. Either they fear and resist its power... or they embrace it as a tool to enlighten and uplift their people.

Like Gutenberg's printing press in the early 15th century, the Internet makes information directly accessible to people. Recall that the government of Gutenberg's time, the princes and priests, feared what could happen if people got access to information and ideas in new ways that the government could not control.

But the lesson of history is that the power of information and ideas proved to be more powerful than any government. And once unleashed, information in the hands of people proved to be a powerful engine for social, economic and religious progress.

I believe the Internet is every bit as powerful and important in our time as Gutenberg's printing press was nearly 600 years ago.

Our challenge is to use the power of the Internet to uplift all of the world's citizens.

What we must recognize is that the great worldwide networks that will drive the Internet around the world will not be built by governments. They will be built by the private sector.

That is why we must champion private investment. The private sector has invested over $600 billion to build these networks since 1994. And, that's only the beginning.


Because today, about 97 percent of the world's Internet users are in high income countries, which account for only 15 percent of the world's population.

That means 85 percent of the world still has no access to the Information Highway. As of January 1997, Asia had 6.3 percent of the Internet hosts in existence, Latin America and the Caribbean, 1 percent... and Africa, less than 1 percent.

There are more Internet hosts in New York City than in all of Africa.

And these facts lead us to one inescapable conclusion: We cannot have a Global Information Infrastructure without an African Information Infrastructure, an Asian Information Infrastructure, a Latin American Information Infrastructure, a Caribbean Information Infrastructure, a Central European Information Infrastructure, and so on and so on.

We must start with the common understanding that all nations have the basic right to harness technologies to allow their economies to grow and flourish.

And we have a shared responsibility to assist nations in achieving that goal.

The U.S. promotes five to advance the global information infrastructure:

-- private investment...

-- competition...

-- open access…

-- a flexible regulatory framework... and,

-- universal service.

These principles, first articulated by our Vice President, are universal.

None of us can afford to take a political approach to the Internet. I believe we must allow consumer and market forces to drive the development of the Internet . . . not politics.

And, thanks to these principles, we have begun to realize the Internet's abundance and opportunity in the United States. We want to share these principles, and that abundance, with nations everywhere.

We cannot be like the old man of the Chinese parable who thought he could put up his hand to stop the sun. The same applies to those who think they can control the Internet. Perhaps the biggest mistake anyone could make now would be to attempt to control content on the Internet -- directly or indirectly -- by controlling its infrastructure.

Just because I am saying there should be no government does not mean there should be no governance.

There are many important issues that have to be addressed... issues like privacy and network security, global e-commerce, network compatibility, ownership, copyright, and the management of global alliances.

But, the private sector should lead. And some issues, like pornography and fraud, can surely be addressed using existing laws.

Now is not the time for regulators to write a code to govern every aspect of the Internet.

Now, this is the approach we've taken in the U.S. And it is very clear that this approach has created our explosive Internet growth and prosperity.

We recognized early on that a hands-off policy approach would foster a fully competitive marketplace.

We recognized early on that a hands-off policy approach would allow technology to serve people in new, creative, practical ways.

But I'm also going to tell you a little secret: Our hands-off approach wasn't entirely a choice. The reality is that the Internet grew so fast that policy-makers could not have written a code to govern it even of they wanted to. And that is a very good thing.

Everything I've said about the importance of the Internet and the way we approach it assumes that there is an infrastructure for the Internet. But as we know, the harsh reality is that the Internet remains the province of the

the developed world. And that must change.

This is why I recently traveled to Africa to find out how we in the United States can do more to bring infrastructure to the developing world.

I saw daunting challenges, but cause for great hope. I saw companies privatizing to bring in private investment. I saw wireless technology bringing service to poor people. I saw satellite technology linking schools

and hospitals in remote areas to the Internet. I saw schoolchildren discovering the Internet for the first time.

I saw cause for great, great hope. But I also came to realize that we cannot have a truly global information infrastructure that includes all the world unless all the world works together to create it.

Now as we leave the 20th century and cross the digital frontier, we must redouble our effort to leave no nation and no community behind. In essence, we must deliver the great promise of globalization to all of the earth’s inhabitants.

How do we do this? How do we broaden the reach of the telecommunications infrastructure that is the lifeline of the global economy?

First, we must create market conditions that attract capital and investment. To do so, we must have stable, transparent and predictable regulatory structures and pro-competitive policies. This is, of course, much easier said than done – and this is something that we in the United States struggle with every day. But the developing countries face their own significant challenges and I believe that we must all play a part in meeting them.

That is why I launched the Chairman’s Development Initiative last summer during my trip to Botswana and South Africa. With this effort, I committed the FCC to working with developing nations to help them achieve the goals of the WTO Basic Telecom Services Agreement: the promotion of competition; liberalization of markets; and the establishment of transparent regulatory policies.

We at the FCC are committed to working with developing countries around the world that are moving toward regulatory reform and competitive telecom marketplaces. I want to share not only pro-competitive principles but also the lessons the FCC has learned implementing them.

As part of this effort, we at the FCC have published a handbook entitled "Connecting the Globe". It is my hope that this handbook will serve as a resource for our friends.

I want regulators around the world to be able to draw on the experiences we have had with universal access in the United States to find innovative ways – whether through wireless, wireline or satellite technology – to bring phone service to all their citizens.

Overall we hope to provide nations with: technical assistance, expert guidance, training and consultation on how to develop and implement effective pro-competitive regulatory regimes and support for the full integration of all nations into the Global Information Infrastructure.

All developed countries must come together to help build this Infrastructure.

If we are going to be serious about implementing global infrastructures, we must think of them as global from the start.

We must envision them as global.

We must build them as global.

We must operate them as global.

We must create a structure to train independent regulators in the world's developing nations.

We must provide others with institutional support.

I see the need nearly every workday... Each year, more than 200 delegations from around the world visit the FCC for guidance in managing technology's gifts. It is time for the world to step up to this challenge... before the digital divide grows even wider.

Today, we must commit ourselves to the imperative of building a Global Information Infrastructure that will connect and benefit all people.

Technology has fated us to be members of a global community, whether we chose to be... whether we planned to be... whether we feel ready to be.

The princes and priests who foresaw that the printing press could loosen their hold on peoples' intellects and imaginations were not eager for its bounty.

But the people were.

Every day I spend in service in communications, I think of my father's vision for the communities he built... his vision that his buildings would not just contain people, but connect them.

As architects of the network that will connect our global community -- indeed, that will be at the heart of our global community -- we are as uniquely charged to design the technology landscape as my father was to design the urban landscape.

Let's make our landscape as welcoming to the hopes and dreams of the citizens who people it as my father made his.

Thank you.

- FCC -