Opening Statement of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK)
April 22, 1998
Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee
Hearing on 706 of Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Related Bandwidth Issues

Source: Office of Sen. Stevens provided hard copy, which was scanned and converted into this html document by Tech Law Journal.


I CHAIR A DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING AT 10:00. I WANT TO MAKE A BRIEF STATEMENT AND SUBMIT SOME QUESTIONS FOR THE RECORD.

I THANK SENATOR BURNS FOR HOLDING THIS HEARING TODAY BECAUSE IT GIVES ME A CHANCE, ELEVEN DAYS AFTER THE ISSUANCE OF THE UNIVERSAL SERVICE REPORT I REQUESTED TO REASSERT THAT THE FCC GOT IT WRONG.

IN ITS REPORT, THE FCC INSISTED ONCE AGAIN THAT "TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICE" AND "INFORMATION SERVICE" ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

THIS SECTION 706 DEBATE IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF HOW THE HOUSE OF CARDS ESTABLISHED BY THE COMMISSION MAY ULTIMATELY COLLAPSE.

SECTION 706 SEEKS TO ENSURE THAT "ADVANCED TELECOMMUNICATIONS CAPABILITY" IS AVAILABLE TO ALL AMERICANS.  THIS CAPABILITY IS DEFINED AS "HIGH SPEED, SWITCHED BROADBAND TELECOMMUNICATIONS CAPABILITY THAT ENABLES USERS TO ORIGINATE AND RECEIVE HIGH QUALITY VOICE DATA, GRAPHICS AND VIDEO TELECOMMUNICATIONS."  THESE ARE SERVICES THAT ALL AMERICANS SHOULD ULTIMATELY HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENJOY.

BUT UNDER THE FCC'S RECENT INTERPRETATIONS, THESE SERVICES WILL BE CONSIDERED "ENHANCED" OR "INFORMATION SERVICES." UNDER SUCH AN INTERPRETATION, NO CONTRIBUTIONS WOULD FLOW TO UNIVERSAL SERVICE FROM THESE ENHANCED NETWORKS AND ESSENTIALLY A TWO-TIERED SYSTEM WOULD DEVELOP: ON ONE HAND WE WOULD HAVE THE OLD, OUTDATED CIRCUIT SWITCHED COMMON CARRIER NETWORK AND THE NEW, PRIVATE BROADBAND NETWORK FOR INFORMATION SERVICES.  THIS ARTIFICIAL SEPARATION OF VOICE AND DATA WILL LEAD TO THE ULTIMATE DEMISE OF THE PUBLIC SWITCHED NETWORK.  THIS WAS CLEARLY NOT WHAT CONGRESS INTENDED.

I DO NOT BELIEVE THE FCC HAS THE AUTHORITY TO APPROVE THE PENDING PETITIONS, GIVEN SECTION 10(d) OF THE ACT, WHICH REQUIRED FULL IMPLEMENTATIOIN OF THE LOCAL COMPETITION PROVISIONS.  HOWEVER THESE PETITIONS DO HIGHLIGHT THE NEED FOR A NEW SET OF RULES THAT REFLECT MODERN COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY.

OUR INTENT IN THE 1996 ACT WAS TO PROMOTE LOCAL COMPETITION ACROSS THE BOARD.  WE WANT COMPETITION FOR LOCAL BROADBAND SERVICES. APPROVAL OF THESE PETITIONS, AT THIS TIME, WOULD ALLOW THE BELLS TO AVOID COMPETITION -- NO RESALE OR UNBUNDLING -- IN THE BROADBAND ARENA, WHEN WE STILL DON'T HAVE EFFECTIVE COMPETITION WITH THE EXISTING NETWORK.

THE FARM TEAM, OF WHICH I AM A MEMBER, WORKED HARD TO ENSURE THE 1996 ACT WOULD PRESERVE AN EVOLVING DEFINITION OF UNIVERSAL SERVICE.  I LOOK FORWARD TO CONTINUING TO WORK WITH HIM TO SEE THAT ALL AMERICANS GET THE BENEFITS OF COMPETITIVE BROADBAND SERVICES TO THE HOME.