PALAU SEEKS SUBSIDIZED U.S. TELECOM RATES

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By Bernadette Carreon

KOROR, Palau (December 1, 2001 - Palau Horizon/PINA Nius Online)---Palau is set to file a petition with America's Federal Communications Commission to make the island nation eligible for subsidies for its long distance costs.

Ed Carter, Palau National Communication Corporation General Manager, said corporation representatives and government officials led by President Remengesau would fly to Washington D.C. to lobby for the assistance.

They will submit Palau's petition and seek support from the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. government authorities.

Success would reduce long distance calls from Palau to the U.S. mainland to as low as 15 cents a minute.

Palau's efforts hit a snag after it was classified as a non-insular area of the U.S., which made the island nation not qualified to receive the subsidies.

Carter said Palau opted to go directly to the Federal Communications Commission to convince the Commission that the term "insular" includes Freely Associated States.

The Freely Associated States - all former members of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands - are the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

According to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Freely Associated States are not considered eligible for benefits as insular areas because they are no longer U.S. trust areas but independent countries.

Carter said Palau is confident the commission would be persuaded since the language of the Compact agreement between the U.S. and Palau talks about fostering economic development, including in telecommunication areas.

Another option Palau could take is to lobby for action from the U.S. Congress to revise the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The first option, while could still take a long time, is the better route to take, Carter said.

The Palau government has hired the services of the firm of Hogan and Hartson to pursue the country's case. The law firm successfully won American Samoa's case that also sought the cheaper telecommunications rates and retention of its country code of 684.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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