August 6, 1998
|Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion, and Possible Steps to Accelereate Such Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, CC Docket No. 98 ___; Deployment of Wireless Services Offering Advanced Telecommunications Capability, CC Docket No. 98-___.
In Section 706(a) of the Telecommunications Act, Congress directed the FCC to "encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans." This provision of the law is an explicit direction to anticipate and prepare for the future. Fulfilling the hopes and needs of citizens in the 21st Century will require widespread availability of much greater bandwidth than has traditionally been available through "plain old telephone service."
Today we begin the task of ascertaining the progress of, and prospects for, deployment of broadband capabilities. We must ensure that high-bandwidth services roll out as quickly as the technology and the economics allow. Progress must not be impeded by inadequate competition or excessive regulation.
I hope to learn in this proceeding what we can do not only to promote the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability but also to facilitate consumer choice among broadband service suppliers. Although we have several pending petitions filed by incumbent telephone companies or their would-be competitors, we need to take a broader view. In the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability, multiple industry sectors all can play a role.
Our notice of inquiry properly recognizes the multiplicity of potential market players -- ILECs, CLECs, and cable, wireless, and satellite companies. The notice asks questions that will permit us to understand better how each industry sector can participate effectively in the bandwidth race, what advantages and disadvantages the various participants bring to the contest, and which barrier-reducing and competition-promoting steps the Commission can and should take. I will welcome the development of a full record on these issues.
In our companion order and notice of proposed rulemaking, we demonstrate that we are prepared to do more than just ask questions. On certain issues, we have already developed a
considerable record, as a result of various pending petitions, and this enables us to render certain threshold decisions and to tender several concrete proposals.
As I see it, the key issue we address today is whether advanced telecommunications capability is subject to the competitive framework so carefully established by Congress in Sections 251 and 271 of the Communications Act. The answer is yes. I don't believe that Congress wrote detailed amendments to the Communications Act only to address voice, but not data, services. To the contrary, I believe a forward-looking and increasingly Internet-savvy Congress crafted a framework to promote competition and deregulation throughout all telecommunications markets as we enter a new chronological and technological millennium.
The Telecommunications Act is rooted in a strong belief in the power of competition, and in a recognition that the networks constructed over the past century by the incumbent LECs need to be "opened up" to enable competitive entry. What I like most about this order and notice of proposed rulemaking is that it both (1) requires incumbent LECs to open their networks in ways that allow multiple providers to offer high-bandwidth services and (2) provides a path for ILEC affiliates who are willing to compete on their merits, rather than on the basis of affiliation, to avoid regulation to the same degree as do their competitors. The goal is to expedite full and fair competition between a multiplicity of bandwidth providers, including ILEC affiliates, and thereby speed the availability of high-quality, reasonably priced, advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans.