Telecommunications Act of 1996

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Telecommunications Act of 1996

Telecommunications legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996. Although it covers many aspects of the field, the most controversial has been the deregulation of local phone service, allowing competition in this arena for the first time. Long-distance carriers (IXCs) and cable TV companies can get into the local phone business, while local telcos (the LECs) can get into long distance. Some of the major provisions follow.

Section 251 - Allows states to regulate prices in the local access market.

Section 254 - Extends universal service to everyone no matter how rural, even if others have to subsidize the expense. See traffic pumping.

Section 271 - Provides a 14-point checklist of requirements for RBOCs to offer intrastate long-distance service.

It Wasn't a Picnic


The RBOCs thought the Act would be a road map for getting into long distance in exchange for ending their local monopolies. What they got were 700 pages of dubious rules that made "deregulating" as complicated as any regulated industry could be. The RBOCs claimed that the Act discriminated against them and that other large telephone companies received more favorable treatment. Complaints and lawsuits ensued.

The Act required that the RBOCs offer competitors access to their local networks at reasonable rates, but both the Supreme Court (1999) and appeals court (2002) said that the FCC should not be deciding how the RBOCs should foster their own competition by unbundling their network services. In 2003, the FCC decided not to force the RBOCs into leasing high-speed lines to competitors. In March 2004, the appeals court upheld that ruling and also overturned a ruling that required the RBOCs to give wireless companies access to their networks. The 2004 rulings were applauded by the RBOCs.
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During his work for Congress, he was deeply involved in the drafting of the 1993 Spectrum Auction legislation, the 1992 Cable Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), and key provisions that became part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
During the Clinton administration, along with the help of a Republican-dominated Congress, the visionary 1996 Telecommunications Act declared it "the policy of the United States" that internet service providers and websites be "unfettered by Federal or State regulation." The act sought "to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services."
Communications Act, which has two "competing" laws: the original 1934 Communications Act and the 1996 Telecommunications Act. However, both documents state that common carriers must act "in the public interest," and can't "make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services."
In implementing the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the FCC embarked on a protectionist path eerily similar to that which it followed in the long-distance market.
Both the HSR Act and the 1996 Telecommunications Act sought to reduce agency hindrances to private market transactions.
The passage of the Minority Tax Certificate in 1978 led to an increase of African American ownership; however, when Congress repealed it in 1995 and replaced it with the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the number of minority-owned broadcast facilities decreased by 40%.
Just before taking the post, he voted against the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the one big effort to solve the problem of anemic competition in the telecom sector.
The person looking up an acronym was looking up a fact, but the person skimming the Wikipedia article on the 1996 Telecommunications Act was ingesting knowledge, not just facts; she very likely wanted to understand what the Act was about, not get a list of dates and bullet points.
1996 Telecommunications Act prompts media consolidation.
His book is a wide-ranging look at the new movement since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The 1996 Telecomm Act is also a pivotal event in Digital Destiny, but Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, D.C., writes more from the perspective of a frontline activist.