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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Victory at the Med Week (Minority Enterprise Development Week) Conference

Washington, DC
September 24, 2001

Opening Remarks of Assistant Secretary Nancy Victory
Before MED Week Industry Forum on Telecommunications,
Energy and Utilities, and Manufacturing

Monday, September 24, 2001
Omni Shoreham Hotel - Blue Room
Washington, DC


Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure for me to be here with you today at the 19th Minority Enterprise Development Week conference. Thank you to my Commerce Department colleague, Mr. Ronald Langston, for personally inviting me to participate in this important event. As the Minority Business Development Agency's dynamic new director, he will provide the minority business community with the support and leadership that will ensure its continued growth. Let me congratulate you Ron, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, for gathering entrepreneurs at this conference despite the tragic devastation that occurred at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon just two weeks ago. And I applaud each of you current and future business owners for coming together to discuss strategies for expanding markets for minority firms. Your presence in Washington, DC during these uncertain times demonstrates the tradition of perseverance that America's minority business men and women have exhibited for more than three centuries. Many of you have conquered extraordinary odds to achieve the success you enjoy today.

Yet we know that obstacles still challenge your ability to develop new lines of business and to expand existing ones. MED Week's conference theme, "Strategies for Growth in the American Economy" underscores President Bush's commitment that all of the nation's businesses, regardless of their owners' race, color, creed, or national origin, contribute fully to our economy's productivity. The Administration's commitment is more important than ever as all Americans pull together to strengthen the nation in the aftermath of terrorist attacks within our borders. The economic landscape has changed dramatically in two short weeks, but this conference should help you to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing environment.

For this reason, I am especially delighted to speak to you during the industry forum, which focuses on three key sectors of our economy: telecommunications, energy, and manufacturing. This afternoon, I'd like to talk to you briefly about the first of these, telecommunications. In my new role as the assistant secretary for communications and information, and the administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the Department of Commerce, I head an agency which serves as the principal advisor to the Executive Branch on telecommunications and information technology issues. NTIA develops policies to stimulate innovation, encourage competition, help create jobs, and offer consumers greater choices for higher quality telecommunications products and services at lower prices. The agency is also responsible for addressing and managing the radio spectrum needs of the federal government.

The telecommunications and information technology sectors are essential not only to the health of the economy but also to our nation's infrastructure. As many of you may be aware, both wired and wireless communications provided critical links between loved ones during the harrowing events of recent weeks. Such communications technologies have also been essential to a coordinated rescue effort. Wireless phone sales have soared since the terrorist attacks, as people seek to stay in touch with each other anytime anywhere. What a dramatic illustration of the need to ensure that innovative telecommunications technologies continue to develop so that we can benefit from the next generation of products and services.

Ensuring that innovative new technologies can be deployed is clearly a major goal for us at NTIA. Radio spectrum is not limitless and scarcity issues are definitely capturing the industry's attention. For this reason, I have outlined among my priorities advancing spectrum policies that promote efficient use of this national resource as well as the development of new wireless technologies. Toward that end, NTIA will be working to develop a framework for reviewing domestic spectrum planning and management to see if the current process can be made more efficient and effective. NTIA will be coordinating closely with the Federal Communications Commission on this project. In addition to this broad assessment of spectrum management policies, NTIA will also be focused on finding ways to facilitate the deployment of specific new technologies. For example, NTIA will be continuing our interagency project assessing the viability of various frequency options for third generation wireless services.

NTIA's focus is not limited to wireless. Indeed, we will also be pursuing policies to facilitate the deployment of innovative new wired technologies to all Americans. Accordingly, another of my priorities is to stimulate the deployment throughout the country of broadband communications networks that support high-speed, two-way data transfers. Expanding the capacity of our networks to permit broadband communications is a necessary step in upgrading the nation's infrastructure. The e-commerce, distance learning, telemedicine, and streaming media applications that broadband networks enable will be pivotal for the recovery of our economy and for the enhancement of the lives of our people. As these networks develop, opportunities abound for the creation of new on-line applications, hardware, hand-held devices, network security and support systems, consumer privacy protections, and products and services yet imagined.

By creating opportunities for entrepreneurs, the two priorities I've just mentioned relate directly to another issue of great concern to me and of equal interest to you. That is, addressing the long-standing problem of minimal minority ownership in the telecommunications and broadcast industries. I am anxious to find ways to increase opportunities for minority firms to participate in the development, deployment, and expansion of the country's telecommunication systems. The sector is so important to the nation's future competitiveness and it requires everyone's expertise and creativity to ensure its continued growth.

Since 1978, NTIA has administered a program designed specifically to coordinate federal government and private industry efforts to increase minority ownership of broadcast stations and telecommunications enterprises. The Minority Telecommunications Development Program, which resides in NTIA's Office of Policy and Development, provides policy analysis of legislative and regulatory proposals affecting minority business development in telecommunications and broadcasting. It also conducts research on various issues, and for ten years has published a report on commercial broadcast ownership by minorities.

We have provided copies of the most recent report titled "Changes, Challenges, and Charting New Courses: Minority Commercial Broadcast Ownership in the United States." It finds, for example, that in 2000, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans combined owned a mere 3.8% of the nation's 11,865 commercial radio and televisions stations. This figure contrasts dramatically with their estimated 29 percent representation in the U.S. population. Diverse voices contributing to public discourse is a fundamental element of our society. For that reason, it imperative that minorities have access to the nation's airwaves. Thus, we will continue to monitor minority ownership of commercial radio and television stations. We are also investigating ways to expand our report to include an analysis of minority ownership of other electronic media and telecommunications businesses.

In addition, we are exploring other means of promoting opportunities for minority business development in telecommunications. You can be sure that we will be paying avid attention to the issues and proposals discussed at this conference, and we encourage you to contact us with any innovative ideas you may have as to how NTIA can effectively stimulate minority telecommunications ownership.

You will find additional information about the Minority Telecommunications Development Program at the end of our report, and the program's director, Maureen Lewis, is also here to answer any questions you may have. I'd like to close by pledging to work closely with MBDA and SBA to ensure that minority entrepreneurs have meaningful opportunities to own and operate telecommunications businesses. We have much to do, but working together, I am confident we can achieve this necessary goal. I look forward to tackling these issues with you because we all reap the rewards of your success.

Thank you.