(GII) and advancing the national technology base through support for research and development.1 Support for research and development (R&D) can help to increase the options,2 lower the costs, and enhance the capabilities of technologies that can be brought to the NII marketplace.
Given the preponderance of private investment and the uncertainty surrounding information infrastructure markets, many people point to the importance of reducing government constraints on private decisions and investment. The big task for government, they would note, is careful but determined deregulation of telecommunications services. A second task is the studied avoidance of new regulations in response to problems arising in the new uses of technology. The concern is not only to avoid constraining competition, but also to minimize the kinds of actions to manipulate the system that telecommunications regulation has unintentionally fostered. As Robert Crandall of the Brookings Institution observed, "Once regulation becomes a system for politically redistributing income, and cross-subsidizing one service out of another, it becomes very difficult to allow competition and the entry of new technologies."3 Participants in this project pointed to both telecommunications regulation, per se, and the Modified Final Judgment decree arising from the AT&T Corporation antitrust suit as forces constraining entry.4 Although those inputs centered on existing telephone and cable businesses, other comments related to the challenge of how to foster entrepreneurialism, development of new information infrastructure industries, and market entry by smaller and nontraditional players. As Quincy Rodgers of General Instrument observed, smaller players have fewer resources, limiting their ability to enter certain markets successfully. Technological innovation and competition should be encouraged together, he and others argued, leaving to the marketplace the determination of which technologies deliver value to customers.5
Many others ask, How can so many industries and so many users expect to acquire enough shared knowledge to create consensus unless some legitimate public body, not competing in commercial markets, is willing to take a leadership role aimed at orderly evolution of the NII? Governments, perhaps uniquely, can try to encourage all parties (their own agencies included) to address cross-cutting issues cooperatively and constructively. The challenge is to effect government leadership that keeps options open, encourages innovation, and allows markets to work.
Whether the government role is seen as something to be minimized or something to be leveraged, it will reflect two realities. First, the intertwining of public and private investments and activities shaping the NII implies that consultation between government and private sector institutions will have to be effective at the operational as well as the strategic or policy level. This interaction will have to reflect the fact that public and