CONTACT: Sallianne Fortunato
 (202) 482-7002


WASHINGTON, DC -- In a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman William Kennard, Commerce Assistant Secretary Larry Irving today urged the FCC to remove barriers to investment in the broadband networks of the future by wired and wireless providers, incumbents and competitors. The letter emphasizes the Clinton Administration's belief that the most effective way to spur investment in these networks is by promoting competition.

The Commission soon will be initiating an inquiry, mandated by section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, into the deployment of advanced telecommunications capabilities. As part of the inquiry, the Commission will determine whether Americans have reasonable and timely access to advanced technologies or whether the agency must promote competition and remove barriers to infrastructure development in order to deploy investment in broadband networks.

"Deployment of the broadband networks of the future is critical for our nation's economic prosperity and advancement of Americans' standard of living," said Irving. "Our information economy increasingly demands such networks, which in turn create jobs and demand for networking equipment, appliances, and software."

Irving also suggested that the FCC look to section 706 as a means to promote our nation's universal service goals, including serving consumers in rural areas. NTIA urged the Commission to consider universal service support mechanisms that do not deter companies from investing in broadband networks and services.

"These networks are enabling distance learning, telemedicine and home health care, electronic-commerce, and community networking," said Irving. "Now is the time to eliminate regulations that are not necessary to promote competition or to protect consumers."

Several of the Bell Operating Companies (BOCs) have anticipated the Commission's inquiry by invoking section 706 in support of petitions for relief from various Commission regulations and certain provisions of the 1996 Act. In its letter, NTIA argues that the Commission should not grant the BOCs 706 petitions at this time because the BOCs have not sufficiently opened their markets to competition.

NTIA does, however, present a roadmap by which the BOCs and other incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) may secure regulatory relief in the future. NTIA suggests that the Commission can consider relaxation of regulation once the ILECs' have made available to competitors access to two elements that are crucial to the development of advanced digital services - local loop facilities capable of supporting these advanced services and collocation space on ILEC premises.

In addition, NTIA suggests a number of long-term issues that the Commission should address in its section 706 inquiry, including collocation issues, streamlined certification of interstate carriers, and adoption of broader interconnection policies to promote greater customer choice for advanced services.

For a copy of the letter, please call Sallianne Fortunato, NTIA Public Affairs, at 202-482-7002, or visit NTIA's home page at NTIA serves as the principal adviser to the Executive Branch on domestic and international telecommunications and information issues.