To: National Desk
Contact: Office of the Vice President, 202-456-7035
WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Following is a transcript of remarks by Vice President Al Gore at the Federal-State-Local Telecomm Summit:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT GORE AT THE FEDERAL-STATE- LOCAL TELECOMM SUMMIT
All of us here today know we are in the midst of an Information Revolution. Last year, when I visited students at the Monta Vista High School in California, they showed me how to use their computer network to retrieve a speech I had made one day earlier about the Information Superhighway delivered at UCLA. Then they showed me how to retrieve a pamphlet written years earlier -- "Common Sense," written by Thomas Paine. Paine used the information infrastructure of his day in the service of a different kind of revolution -- the fruits of which we enjoy today.
Paine wasn't re-inventing government, of course. He and his contemporaries were inventing a representative democratic government for the first time in history.
But Paine's insistence on the test of common sense is as important in this information revolution as it was to our American revolution two centuries ago.
How can we best serve the cause of liberty and enterprise in cyberspace? By working to reach a revolutionary goal through common sense means.
A time comes in any revolution when expectations are very high but accomplishments are not yet concrete. It is at such a time that we must re-dedicate ourselves to the fundamental purpose of our efforts, measure how far we have come, and consider how best to accomplish the revolutionary enterprise.
That is the place we occupy today as we take stock of the efforts to develop the National Information Infrastructure and, more broadly, the Global Information Infrastructure.
Last October, I announced that we would hold this summit in order to ensure that we remain connected to you -- the people who daily represent the public in exploring the details, opportunities and impacts of the emerging information superhighway.
Of course, this is far from the first time this Administration has reached out to state and local officials. Indeed, ever since I began working to create a national information superhighway some 18 years ago, I have been working closely with many of you here today and your colleagues.
We share a common purpose, a purpose President Clinton and I outlined over two years ago when we described our essential vision of the coming American information marketplace. We seek open and free competition in which any company is free to offer any information good or service to any customer.
Why is that important? Very simply. Because competition lowers prices, increases choices, improves quality and creates jobs. Competition is the key. Competition in the information marketplace will provide Americans lower prices for their telephone, cable and information goods and services and give them more and better choices in the information and programming available to them. Greater competition will unleash consumer demand for the new information services and products that will educate, entertain and empower our people. And that will lead to new, higher-paying jobs and an economy better prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.
How do we move toward that goal? By implementing five simple principles, principles that the Administration has promoted aggressively for the past two years. These principles were embraced by the International Telecommunications Union in Buenos Aires last March. They were the framework for discussions at both the Asian Pacific Economic Conference and Hemispheric Summits. Also they will be the focus of the upcoming G-7 Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Brussels in late February.
You know what those principles are. I've recited this list so often I feel as if I'm reading the Miranda rights of the information superhighway. They are competition, universal service, private investment, open access, and flexible governmental action.
Today, I am very pleased to announce that our Administration and a number of groups representing state and local officials are jointly issuing a "Statement of Policy Objectives" that address issues of mutual interest concerning the future of advanced telecommunications and the role of each level of government in building that future. This statement of policy objectives is a major step toward consensus on how to build the information superhighway. By issuing this statement all of you gathered here today make a clear statement of your -- and our -- vision of the path toward telecommunications reform and the development of the NII. By endorsing this statement we each:
I fully agree with the statement's recognition of the fact that:
"[t]he regulatory framework needed to manage the transition from a system of regulated monopolies to competition should utilize the expertise and experience that has been developed at each level of government."
You have developed expertise and experience in promoting competition while protecting consumers, preventing discrimination among providers or users, ensuring universal service for all Americans. And we intend to draw upon that enormous expertise in the months ahead.
Again, competition is the key. In the long distance market, in the telephone equipment industry and elsewhere, in the computer industry we have seen the benefits of real competition often made possible by intelligent government policy.
When monopolies such as the original AT&T or the local cable company deprived the consumers of the benefits of competition, government has acted as a counterweight to protect consumers and give potential competitors a fair chance. Since the break-up of AT&T eleven years ago, the use of long distance is up and prices are down more than 60% in real terms.
When competition came to the telephone equipment business, consumers discovered that they could buy a telephone of their choice for less than $25 instead of renting one for $60 a year.
We protected consumers in the Cable Act of 1992 by regulating prices and ensuring high-quality services only where no effective competition existed. According to the FCC, the 1992 cable law has potentially saved consumers $3 billion.
The free and competitive market for computers has brought previously unimaginable technological capacity to our offices and our homes. Forty years ago it was predicted that the worldwide market for computers would be ten to fifteen machines. In 1980 there were, in essence, no personal computers in existence. But in less than a decade, PC prices have dropped sharply while computing power has accelerated dynamically -- virtually doubling every eighteen months. In the last quarter of 1994 Americans bought over 5.8 million personal computers.
At the federal, state, and local levels, we must continue to find new ways to promote competition and innovation.
We must spur private investment. The current auctions of PCS spectrum, proposed by President Clinton in 1993, are opening the door to new wireless technologies while raising billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury. The result for consumers will be lower prices for wireless communication.
Also, it will mean new wireless services, new jobs and more efficient, more competitive workers; office workers who will be able to work from their computers anywhere and still be connected to their homes or offices; truck drivers who will be able to get instant information on delivery requirements; or police officers who will be able to get mug shots and police reports on a computer terminal located in their patrol car.
In addition, we can create the conditions for real competition by ensuring program providers nondiscriminatory access to information conduits and networks. We have heard much in recent months about the strong beginnings of Direct Broadcast Satellite services -- bringing up to 150 channels into every home anywhere in the country; allowing customers to watch every NFL game and hundreds of basketball games, and already serving 300,000 households across the nation.
I've been a supporter of satellite services for a long time. But today's competitive successes did not arise by happenstance or merely by the workings of an invisible hand.
The program access provisions of the Cable Act of 1992 guaranteed that direct satellite services would have programming to provide -- a sound example of common sense governmental action that helps to create the conditions for real competition. There was a problem because of distortions in the marketplace. The federal government fixed that problem by opening up the market to competition.
And where competition can come to the marketplace and put government out of business, it is critically important that it does so. President Clinton and I have worked hard to reinvent the federal government. Ninety-three per cent of the reinventing government proposals are in some stage of implementation. In December, the President announced the major restructuring of five federal agencies. And right now we have underway a comprehensive review in a second round of reinventing government.
We have initiated a regulatory reform effort that will match good intentions with good regulations by encouraging citizen participation, simplifying regulatory processes and using information technology everywhere we can to meet our national goals of better customer service, innovation, and measurable results.
I encourage you to do the same -- to look hard at the tasks you perform, to decide which are necessary and which have become superfluous -- to drive your own agencies to work faster, better and smarter.
The issuance of our Joint Statement today comes at a critical -- and critically appropriate -- time as Congress begins debate over new telecommunications legislation, as state and local governments are building increasing momentum to open markets, and as nations around the world look to the United States for leadership. The framework we issue today -- the fact that we at the federal and state levels can agree on the guideposts for the path to reform -- will send a clear signal that our resolve for revolutionary change is greater than ever before.
Last year, unfortunately, telecommunications reform legislation fell by the wayside in the waning days of the Congress as the many varied participants responded more to their fears than to their hopes.
That's not a surprise. Any revolutionary era means, by definition, that great change is underway -- change that mixes legitimate concern about the shifting nature of competitive advantage with unrealistic fears of the unknown.
Each industry is trying to enter new markets while keeping competitors out of its own old market. The motto seems to be, "What's mine is mine -- what's yours is negotiable." We have to break this impasse if we are going to create a vibrant, competitive information marketplace. Let me give you some examples.
The regional phone companies legitimately want to use their expertise to compete in other markets. But they fear that before they can do so, they will become "hollow monopolies" -- the purveyors of local telephone services, but only to customers that others do not wish to serve.
As a result of those fears, most local phone companies are trying to delay the inevitable -- genuine competition for local telephone services. They are viewed as delaying the game when they could be partners in negotiating the rules of the game.
Long distance companies -- large and small -- want to ensure that their businesses are primarily dependent on a local telephone monopolist to reach their customers and vice versa; and they especially do not want to be dependent on a monopolist who is permitted to compete with them in their markets at the same time that they and local customers have no real choices for local service.
So they are proposing a level of detail difficult to achieve in federal legislation before they are willing to support change. They, in effect, are demanding that the footnotes to the rulebook be written before the game can begin.
Cable companies, too, want to offer new services, like local telephony. But they, too, fear that other competitors will use past regulatory advantage -- or the capital gained from past monopoly status -- to overwhelm them.
Because of this fear, they are using the regulatory process and legal challenges to delay local telephone company entry into the cable market. Some of them would like to bring the game to a halt before it even starts.
Information service providers are concerned that telephone companies and cable companies will abuse their control of both content and conduit. They will benefit from the buildout of high-speed networks, but fear being left out of the game altogether and being denied access to American households.
And consumers themselves have fears; as workers and citizens, they don't want to be left out. The Joint Statement that we issue today accurately describes advanced telecommunication services as a potential tool that can empower Americans, that can enhance economic opportunity and improve the delivery of public services. But a tool can be used only by those who hold it in their hands.
Consumers want to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by the change that does come to them -- that they do not find the cost of being in the game rising constantly with little benefit to justify it and no increase in the quality of play.
As you know, because you deal with these issues every day, there is some truth and some exaggeration in each of these fears -- particularly the fears expressed by private economic interests. We need to listen carefully to the voices of industry, but at the end of the day we must ensure that the marketplace favors real competition which is after all never without risk -- not only the desires or well-being of a particular competitor.
How do we reconcile all these fears? Not by making small changes to the present regulatory system. Nor by discounting the legitimate concerns of market players because of the validity of these concerns. Nor by continuing to protect monopolies and artificially subdividing the telecommunications marketplace.
We can deal with all the fears of all the different players only by having the courage to throw out the regulated monopoly model that we've used for more than 60 years and instead create a truly competitive marketplace where regulation is replaced by competition on a level playing field.
We propose that the Administration work with the Congress, the industry, the public interest community and all of you gathered here today to decide in a timely manner the rules necessary for a fair game and let the play begin. No team should be allowed to bring in ringers or begin with unfair advantages gained from previous monopolistic positions and practices and no team should be allowed to unduly slow or complicate play.
But the game should not begin on some arbitrary date without rules at all on the mistaken assumption that a calendar can replace a rulebook. Too many people and businesses have too much at stake to be subject to the vagaries of trying to play now and figure out the rules later.
In this new competitive world, interconnection rules will ensure that new network service providers -- including utilities and cable companies that wish to offer switched digital services -- can compete fairly with incumbent phone companies. The regional phone companies can compete on even terms with inter-exchange companies in both local and longdistance markets. Thousands of information service providers and programmers will be able to compete because we will work with the states to ensure they all have non- discriminatory access to regulated networks.
And new, more effective universal service provisions will ensure that all consumers will be able to enjoy the lower prices and greater choices competition will make possible.
We can create such a world -- indeed, we must -- in order to meet the needs and eliminate the fears of consumers.
But we will not have full and open competition if private interests use regulatory and legislative proceedings as tools for short-term competitive advantage rather than a mechanism for the long-term public good. Regulatory delay must never be permitted to become a tactic of private, competitive advantage.
So I hope that in your discussions today you will begin to cut through the stalemate by carefully unbundling the real from the imaginary.
I suggest a straightforward approach. Competition is always better than monopoly. But monopoly power must never be confused with competition. Two enemies of competition are monopoly power and unwise government regulation.
We must remember, after all, that the goal we seek is real competition. Not the illusion of competition; not the distant prospect of competition. Because only real competition can meet the test that consumers rightly demand -- that prices be lower; quality higher; and choice, greater. That's just common sense.
That is why, for example, we have already said that we cannot support a proposal to fully deregulate the local telephone exchanges upon the mere prospect that some theoretical competitor might be able to provide some services to some hypothetical customer. That is an allusion of competition. It's not competition. Competition must be real. But by the same token, we must not use the rationale of scarcity to limit competition in a time of technological abundance.
Where real competition is possible, we must ready the stage for its appearance.
And where it is real, we must be prepared to re-examine past regulatory mechanisms. For example, current cable legislation established rate regulation in monopoly markets. But some are suggesting that cable markets are changing faster than anticipated. If the arrival of direct broadcast satellite and video dialtone eliminates the need for rate regulation, so much the better. I have no interest in seeing regulatory mechanisms perpetuated one instant longer than necessary. I'm sure everyone feels that way.
We will listen with an open mind. We will ask what competition exists, for what markets and for what services. We will ask what can be done to speed up competition even more. We consider how best to reach our essential goal of protecting consumers -- and liberating consumer demand.
It is to learn from and listen to you that I called this summit today. And it is why I encourage you to join the issues today with a common vision and common goals.
We all look forward to working with the leaders of the 104th Congress. We are already building a bi-partisan coalition for reform. We are eager to work with Leader Dole and Speaker Gingrich, Senators Pressler and Hollings, and other Senators working in this field; and with Congressmen Bliley and Dingell, Fields and Markey. As last year's overwhelming vote in the House of Representatives demonstrated, the case for change transcends political boundaries.
That signal is amplified by your efforts that are already underway. Represented here are state and local governments that are introducing competition to markets that were previously the domain of monopoly providers; that are introducing new models of telemedicine to reduce costs and improve health care delivery; and that are linking their schools, libraries and citizens to the Information superhighway -- a goal of particular importance to us.
You have been the innovators -- you have had to be, in order to keep pace with technology. While much attention has been focused on the federal government, many of you have completely rewritten your states' telecommunications rule books. You've introduced competition into the marketplace and found ways to promote new services, better quality, and lower prices all at the same time. There are many inspiring examples. I salute you on the work you've done and are doing.
Not just communities but whole nations will be helped by the coming of the information revolution. Because open markets are just as critical around the world as they are in the United States.
Free market access will provide critical support for the economic development of other nations, whose businesses and workers need access to advanced technologies if they are to remain -- or to become -- competitive in a global economy.
And open markets will allow people around the world to have access to and choose from the best in educational, entertainment and creative products such as films, sound recordings, computer software and books.
When nations close markets they close minds and opportunities as well. In Europe, quotas on television limit U.S. programming; in Canada, my home state's favorite cable channel has been forced off the air; in Australia, preferences are provided to domestic films, and in Columbia a new law just passed to set day-time quotas for television.
The United States must fight for open markets so that our products can be sold worldwide. We must fight for open markets because the principle of free expression of ideas is at stake. We must fight for open markets to protect the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the entertainment and content industry. And we will do so -- including at the upcoming G-7 ministerial conference in Brussels next month.
Still, there are challenges that remain in translating our purpose and our objectives into action.
The words of Alexis de Toqueville, written in 1835, demonstrates that the case for change transcends boundaries of time as well.. A keen observer of American democracy, de Toqueville wrote:
I think that it is an arduous undertaking to excite the enthusiasm of a democratic nation for any theory that does not have a visible, direct, and immediate bearing on the occupations of their daily lives.... For it is enthusiasm which makes men's [and women's] minds leap off the beaten track and brings about great intellectual, as well as political, revolution.
We have seen -- and I have described today -- the evidence of the information revolution that is already upon us. Its historical genesis is inseparable from our quest for freedom -- from the printing press that Thomas Paine used to print "Common Sense" to the explosion of talk radio and the growth of the Internet. Its prospect is for the pursuit of happiness, from jobs and education and health care to the simpler pleasure of watching football on a Sunday afternoon. Its time has come.
Almost exactly a year ago today, I told industry leaders that we were meeting on common ground, not to predict the future, but to make firm the arrangements for its arrival. Today, with you, we meet again on common ground, again to make firm the arrangements that will allow the information revolution to have an even more visible, direct and immediate impact on the lives of all Americans.
The President, Secretary Brown and I, and all the members of this Administration here today, look forward to working together with you.