Both Canada and the United States know the pains and rewards of moving from entrenched telecommunications monopolies to a highly competitive marketplace. Developing countries now face that same challenge, as they take the first important steps to end state-owned monopolies and establish an independent national regulator. This month in Geneva, the International Tele-communication Union held the first world symposium for national communications regulators. More than 200 participants from 80 countries attended. Bill Kennard, chair of the Federal Communications Commission, was one of several regulators offering to help developing countries bridge the digital divide, while balancing the economic benefits of competition with the social need for universal service. Below is an excerpt from his Nov. 20 presentation. Breaking up decades or even centuries of monopoly power is like trying to break up a huge logjam in a river. It is done one log at a time, one day at a time. Monopolists will tell you that you cannot have competition and universal service at the same time. They will tell you that you cannot break up their holdings, and hope to attract private investment at the same time. And they will tell you that they cannot survive if they have to make their facilities available to their competitors, and at cost. Don’t believe them. Competition and universal service can go hand-in-hand. But you need the support of your country’s leaders to create a universal service support system, to which every competitor contributes proportionately. Privatization has been carried out many ways in many countries, and state monopolies have been converted to fair and effective competitors, with the proceeds going to the public treasury. And dominant providers can compete and open their facilities at the same time. Interconnection, unbundling and co-location are three of the most innovative techniques of modern regulatory practice. My country is working with emerging economies around the globe as they embrace these principles (for liberalizing telecommunications markets) in their own communications systems and implement GATS obligations. We have signed Development Initiative agreements with eight nations (to provide telecom policy and regulatory assistance): South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Argentina, Jamaica, Peru, and with India and Thailand. Plans are underway for agreements with Brazil and the Philippines, and we hope to sign agreements with Hungary and Turkey in December. We selected these nations because we believe they can serve as catalysts for change in their regions, and because their telecommunications environments are conducive to the kind of change envisioned by the Global Information Infrastructure (GII). The agreements are two-way partnerships in which we share our experiences about open markets, competition, spectrum management, licensing, and procedures for operating an independent agency. We offer these materials to you, but you have to turn them into action. We can advise and confer, but you have to lead. Yet while no one can do these things for you, you are not alone. The ITU can link arms with you, and give you the international backing you need to implement these reforms in your country. Technology is on your side, as well. Technology is becoming more capable and less expensive. Your opportunity is to leap-frog the old technology that limits the rest of us. Developing economies become the technology test-beds of the future. We can offer the experience looking backward, but you can offer the applications looking forward. The future may not be a hard-wire in every home, but a phone number for every person who is reached through the airwaves and satellites. Universal access may be defined not by its obligations, but by its abundance. That may be how we can close the global digital divide. A former president of my nation, Abraham Lincoln, said that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." He was saying our nation could not exist half-slave and half-free. But neither can the modern world exist half-connected and half-ignored.