[ text version ]

Remarks of
Commissioner Susan Ness
The USTTI Satellite Module
Washington, D.C.
February 26, 1997

(As prepared for delivery)

I am delighted to join you here today.

USTTI plays an invaluable role in bringing together telecommunications experts from around the world to explore the issues of the day.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share views with so many distinguished professionals and to gain insight into the policy challenges you confront in your homeland.

It is said that the world is now a smaller place. Certainly, the advancement in telecommunications technology has been the catalyst for this evolution.

But often we cannot predict the full impact of the technological advances before us.

For example, in 1943 the chairman of IBM said thoughtfully: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

And who could have predicted just fifty years ago, that satellite technology could one day provide instantaneous telephony to millions of individuals by the year 2000?

And who would have predicted just five years ago, that over 70 countries would consent to an aggressive, market-opening world trade organization agreement on basic telecommunications services?

This historic trade agreement signals a new chapter in the way individuals, countries, and markets will interact.

A 60-year tradition of telecommunications monopolies and closed markets has been replaced by open markets, deregulation and competition.

By agreeing to this accord, countries are translating powerful market principles into economic action for the next century.

The WTO agreement is the cement of the global information highway. This historic agreement will foster the provision of universal service -- especially for those living in rural and under-served areas. I am struck by the fact that more than 50% of the world's population has never made a phone call.

The scope of the market access commitment under the agreement is significant. It means that providers gain the right to use their own facilities and can work directly with their customers everywhere to furnish seamless service.

The range of services that can be provided internationally includes all voice and data services provided by fixed or by mobile service networks, or both.

And I am also gratified that fifty countries will be opening their markets to satellite services.

Most significantly, sixty-nine countries will now abide by a set of regulatory principles that reflect the faith of the world in the power of competition to provide products and services at a low cost to more consumers around the globe.

Competition Principles
Last year in the U.S., we embraced these pro-competitive market principles through passage of our 1996 Telecommunications Act.

My work at the FCC this past year implementing this law reinforced my belief that

are the cornerstones to a successful global telecommunications infrastructure.

But agreeing is one thing. Implementing is another. It is difficult, but necessary. It takes effort -- and perseverance.

But the rewards are sweet. And no nation can afford to lag behind. The rest of the world won't wait.

Satellite Service
I can assure you that one important component of this infrastructure -- global satellite service -- will thrive under this global competitive umbrella.

In the past five years, these services have found new markets which complement existing terrestrial and cellular networks.

Whether we consider the recent advent of

these systems are a critical rung on the telecommunications infrastructure ladder.

Moreover, satellites are the key to globalization -- there is no relationship between cost and distance.

Satellites are cost-effective, especially in remote and rural areas. In such areas they can often be deployed more quickly than terrestrial systems, and have an inherent capacity to meet the needs of developing markets.

In fact, in some markets, they may provide the only communications solution.

I was so pleased that the ITU focused on satellites for its first World Policy Forum. And I am particularly delighted that a product of that gathering was a draft memorandum of understanding on telecom handsets -- a major step toward allowing people to communicate any time, any place.

Some of you here today worked on that historic document.

I believe, like many of you, that satellites provide an exciting and practical solution to the infrastructure dilemma faced by emerging markets.

It has been estimated that putting the "final mile" of fiber optic cable to link every home in the world to the internet would cost $300 billion dollars -- assuming it even could be done.

The comparative cost for global satellite coverage is around $9 billion.

But more to the point, the buildout for this service is so much easier. There is an "egalitarian" aspect to this technology that will help to achieve our goal of universal service.

As these systems are activated, coverage is universal over the terrain the footprint encompasses. Equal access to the service is a built-in component of the satellite technology itself.

I believe in the potential of satellite technology to transform the way we live our daily lives in the years to come.

As I did in 1995 at the last World Radiocommunications Conference in Geneva, I look forward to working with you and your administrations to keep the promise of this technology alive and moving forward.

The spectrum allocation and frequency assignment issues I encountered at WRC '95 were indeed complex. But these threshold spectrum questions must be resolved in order to ensure that global satellite systems have viable resources to begin deployment.

For without service and feeder links, an orbiting satellite is but a global ornament.

I look forward to continuing our work together in Geneva this fall. In the meantime, I wish you an exciting and enjoyable session as you explore the potential of satellite technology with your friends and colleagues here in Washington and across the U.S.

Thank you.