Remarks of
FCC Commissioner Susan Ness
Federal Communications Commission
at the

Geneva, Switzerland

Saturday, October 7, 1995

Thank you very much, Brian, for that kind introduction.

The distinguished speakers and panel that you have assembled clearly demonstrate the vitality and global productivity of the Internet.

I firmly believe that the Internet will help us achieve Vice President Gore's vision of the Global Information Infrastructure. The Internet allows us to connect children to classrooms, citizens to their representatives, and countries to each other. The people here on the panel are the ones who are making this happen.

I come here as a user of the Internet as well as a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is an independent U.S. agency, established in 1934, and charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC has five commissioners, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. We serve five year staggered terms. And to insure our independence, no more than three members can be of the same political party.

When people hear ..."Government -- Regulator", ...they think we think:

"If it moves, regulate it;
If it doesn't move,
kick it until it does move,
and then regulate it."

I am here to suggest that regulation is NOT the mindset of this Commission. Instead, our mind is set on competition.

Our goal is to ensure that the user has the best service and the most options at the lowest cost. To meet this goal, we strive for open and fair competition.

Only with real competition can consumers truly benefit fully from the Information Superhighway. Internet service is relatively inexpensive in the United States in part because there is robust competition between service providers and carriers. Lower prices from the carriers directly translates into lower prices for consumers.

For example, users in one European country pay almost four times the price for access that U.S. users pay. I am told that here in Switzerland the cost of access is a whopping 75 times the cost in the U.S. In fact, U.S. prices are so much lower that users in some countries are putting their home pages on U.S. service providers. To browsers, it looks as though the home page is located in their country; but in fact, it is based thousands of miles away in the U.S. Why? Because competition has dramatically reduced the leased line costs. In some countries, dominant carriers are still free to charge monopoly prices.

Competition is critical for the Internet to achieve its global potential; regulators can help make that happen.

How else can governments assist the Internet? For one, we can review our rules to make sure that they are not obstructive. So I would welcome hearing about any concerns that you might have on that score.

A second role for government is to be more proactive. We can demonstrate how the Internet's capabilities can address important social needs. Governments can work with the market and social institutions to tap the Internet's potential.

For example, President Clinton recently announced a new private-sector initiative in California to connect one fifth of California's schools to the Internet by the end of this year. That means almost 1.5 million children could be online by December. By the end of the decade, we want to have every classroom in America connected. Connecting the classrooms is a first step in providing our children with a world class education.

Making it easier for citizens to be active participants in our government is another place where I believe the Internet can play an important role. The FCC has set up home pages for our bureaus and commissioners. You will see these remarks posted on my home page. Browsers can find out about the latest FCC rules, decisions and public notices. Most importantly, the Internet provides another avenue for people to submit comments to the FCC and to have a voice in our decision making process.

Agencies across the government are experimenting with the Internet as a low cost way to provide services and information to the public.

The global reach of the Internet connects people across countries. Access could benefit students in Latin America and Africa as well as kids in California.

In short, the Internet is a fundamental building block for the realization of a Global Information Society. Governments should embrace its promise; not become obstacles to its fulfillment.

Thank you.