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June 8, 2000

Separate Statement of Commissioner Gloria Tristani

Re: Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service: Promoting Deployment and Subscribership in Unserved and Underserved Areas, Including Tribal and Insular Areas, 12th Report and Order and Memorandum Opinion and Order, CC Docket No. 96-45; Extending Wireless Telecommunications Services, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WT Docket No. 99-266.

I am proud to cast my vote in support of these items. Our decisions here reflect this agency’s commitment to improving access to telephone service on tribal lands and, in turn, to opening the door to the Information Age.

Section 254 of the Communications Act requires the Commission to assure that all Americans have access to telecommunications services. While 94 percent of Americans enjoy phone service today, just 47 percent of Indian tribal households on tribal lands have telephones. The policies we adopt today, including expanded Lifeline and Link Up coverage, should boost subscribership on tribal lands and create incentives for new infrastructure investment. We appropriately recognize that wireless-based services offer unique solutions to increasing telephone access in often-isolated and remote tribal lands. I strongly support the decision to award bidding credits in upcoming auctions to wireless carriers that commit to deploy facilities and offer service to tribal areas that have telephone subscription rates below 70 percent.

I am also pleased that the Commission has established an expedited process for handling petitions by carriers seeking designations as Eligible Telecommunications Carriers on tribal lands. Excessive delay in the designation of competing providers may hinder the development of competition and the availability of service in many high-cost areas. By committing to prompt resolution of pending petitions, we should speed deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.

Finally, I am pleased that the Commission is reaffirming its commitment to promote a government-to-government relationship with tribal nations and to recognize that tribal nations have rights to set their own communications priorities and goals. To that end, I look forward to the training session the Commission will hold this September to assist tribal nations in making decisions about telecommunications.

Our actions today, and our commitment to continue to act in the future, will help fulfill the mandate of Congress and, I believe, our moral obligation to ensure that all Americans enjoy the benefits of the Information Age.