surrounded by water and is far from any population center.
The point I'm trying to make is that each state presents its own problems and their solution should be local solutions. The federal government should be flexible enough to have an overarching governmental standard that permits the states and localities to solve a problem in the way that is best for those states.
GT: What role should the local and state governments play in the emerging information infrastructure?
Irving: I work for the president of the United States, who is a former governor. He believes strongly that this should be an equal partnership role. This has to be because it's a national and international infrastructure. There has to be federal involvement and there also has to be state involvement, and the ultimate solution should be left to the state.
We think that there's got to be a partnership, and we don't think that it's one of those in which a senior partner should be the federal government, necessarily. There's got to be a federal role that ensures it won't interfere with national commerce or interstate commerce.
GT: What kind of infrastructure do you envision nationwide in the next 10 years?
Irving: I envision an infrastructure that's going to be beyond what we can imagine today. Consumers will have an incredible amount of choice as to how they get telecommunication service, including what telecommunication service and the price they want to pay.
I think you'll have as many choices in terms of telecommunications as you have in cold remedies today. If you walk into any grocery store or any drug store, you have a hundred different choices -- Advil, Sine-Aid, Sinutab, Efidac ...
Telecommunications will become that type of commodity. It will be based on what you want. What we're trying to do is to assist people in getting there in things like connecting the nation. If most people know what the choices are, then it promotes choice through public policy and can be a resource center for minorities, urban dwellers, the rural, senior citizens or the disabled.
That's what NTIA can bring to the table -- being a catalyst for the state and local government question and for the questions of those people who want to be part of this evolution, but on their own initiative might not be a part of it. You can also be a catalyst for those in society who are not traditionally players in the telecommunications marketplace.
GT: How can we reach the point where we have all these choices, combined with equal access and universal service?
Irving: You have to have coherent, comprehensive and thoughtful public policy. You have to have public-private partnerships and you have to reach out and communicate to people about the importance of this technology. Because when you talk to them about this they understand it. If you cover public policy first off you're going to get some of this. Usually there isn't going to be competition because of income level, economic disparities or geography -- you have to make a little bit more of a special effort. That's one of the commitments of this administration.
A "teletopia" is an overused term but it is possible. It's only possible if we have enlightened thought, we do the right thing contemplatively and if we reach out to all of us.
GT: What can governments learn from one another, regardless of level? How does this contribute to developing the information infrastructure?
Irving: I talked about that in terms of beta projects, where we're using a demonstrations model. I met with a senior executive from a state setting up telecommunications technology state-wide, and I gave him some ideas of some of the projects we're doing here and some phone numbers of people to call who have already done some of the