February 13, 1996
It is a pleasure to be here with you this evening and to see so many of our WRC-95 alums. As you can imagine, the FCC is busier than ever these days. The Telecommunications Act entrusts us with significant new responsibilities to be completed under tight deadlines -- regulatory nanoseconds -- in fact, only 175 days remain for some of the most crucial rulemakings.
The number of mergers and acquisitions that have been filed in just the past 30 days is mindboggling.
But in our desire to implement the legislation, we must not neglect other critical initiatives -- items unrelated to the new law, but which enhance the international competitiveness of our telecommunications industries. Among these:
I. WRC'95 Last fall, I had the privilege of representing the Commission at the 1995 World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva. The United States approached the Conference as one would a campaign: our goal was to obtain satellite spectrum allocation and use decisions that would enable new technologies to be deployed globally.
We had an ambitious set of proposals and 130 delegations to convince. Keep in mind, the U.S. had but one vote -- well, two, once Micronesia gave us its proxy.
It was a long and, at times, arduous Conference. Indeed, the old adage -- If it weren't for the last minute a lot of things wouldn't get done -- might well have been our theme song.
The results of WRC-95 are a testament to the great spirit of cooperation among the ITU member nations. They recognized that the ITU must embrace new technologies. I was impressed with their willingness to tackle the difficult issues raised by these innovative satellite systems.
Not all of these issues could be resolved fully at this Conference nor were the U.S. proposals adopted in their entirety. But some of the results are worth noting:
As one might imagine, the U.S. proposal encountered considerable resistance. I experienced firsthand the impact of the Commission's domestic policy decisions on international spectrum negotiations. But in the end, the U.S. obtained the spectrum adjustment on a primary basis for our region -- and a WRC-97 agenda item to allocate more spectrum in Regions I and III.
A fierce debate ensued at the opening session whether even to address this request at WRC-95. We won. Ultimately, the Conference gave a global green light to NGO- FSS by approving an immediate 400 MHz allocation, with another 100 MHz possible in 1997, after sharing studies are done.
It is obvious from my brief summary that for U.S. satellite interests, WRC-97 will be as important as WRC-95.
Among the lessons we learned at WRC-95:
First Lesson: WRC preparation cannot be done on an interim basis. There must be continuity and ongoing involvement with the ITU and its member delegations.
The Commission has already taken steps to develop U.S. proposals for 1997:
Lesson Two: We must reach out and touch someone -- preferably from another delegation. We invited women delegates from other countries to a Women's Breakfast. It was exciting to meet the woman heading the Egyptian delegation, and the chief engineers from Jordan, Thailand, China and Brazil. The friendships formed at that breakfast are the foundation for mutual understanding, not just for WRC-95, but for future conferences.
Lesson Three: Our delegation included many industry members, whose expertise and international contacts were invaluable. Despite sometimes conflicting financial interests, our industry members faithfully advanced the official U.S. policy. Such government-industry cooperation will be critical at future conferences.
Lesson Four: Maintain a good sense of humor. It can break the ice and allow compromise to follow. How true it was!
I am very proud our U.S. delegation and its head, Brian Fontes. We are fortunate that many of these experienced individuals will be part of our WRC-97 team. I plan to continue my involvement as well.
II. International Rulemakings
You can't have global satellite systems without international spectrum allocations. But U.S. companies also need to be able to enter foreign markets to offer these global services once they are "off the ground."
The Commission has taken a leadership position in opening our markets to foreign competitors. Our recent Foreign Carrier Rulemaking provides concrete incentives for foreign countries to remove the barriers that keep U.S. companies out of their telecommunications markets.
In addition to these efforts abroad, the Commission is conducting a top-to-bottom review of our satellite licensing policies and regulations. Last month the Commission adopted an order, known as "DISCO" that eliminates the distinction between U.S. domestic satellites and international separate systems.
Under the new rules, U.S.-licensed providers of fixed, mobile, or direct broadcast satellite services will be allowed to offer these services both domestically and internationally. This greater flexibility should spur competition in satellite services and allow our satellite operators to meet customer demand in an increasingly globalized economy.
We continue to look for ways to streamline our regulations to better respond to marketplace changes. Some of you may have participated last month in the International Bureau's Industry Roundtable on Satellite Licensing Policies. Topics debated included:
It was a heated debate which generated a lot of useful ideas.
III. Spectrum Management
Let me close with an issue of particular importance to me: spectrum management. As our auctions have so clearly demonstrated, spectrum is one of our nation's most valuable resources. Wise spectrum policies stimulate growth in jobs and exports. Efficient use of the spectrum, coupled with rapid deployment of new technologies, can increase competition, reduce prices for consumers, and introduce innovative new services.
Conversely, government micro-management and drawn-out proceedings for spectrum allocation and assignment, work against creativity and new services, preserving the domain for monopoly providers. Entrepreneurs and the public lose.
Future spectrum needs and the impact of new technologies are issues confronting the Commission regularly in its role as spectrum steward. Some have argued that the Commission should not make any of these judgment calls, but should simply sell off the spectrum in fee simple to the highest bidder for whatever use the winner chooses.
I don't share that view.
However, I am convinced that the Commission needs to take the time to examine its spectrum policies. For that reason, the Commission will hold an en banc hearing on March 5 to address spectrum management, including such topics as:
I know that the satellite industry has a great interest in spectrum issues and I look forward to hearing its views on these topics. A vigorous debate with the full range of viewpoints is an important step in formulating a spectrum management policy for the 21st Century.