The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Unchanging Laws in a Marketplace of Change

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The Center for Disease Control released a June 2013 report showing the number of households using only wireless telephone services is on the rise.  This trend reinforces the need to update existing telecommunications law to reflect the current state of the marketplace.  No longer are Americans reliant on only one form of communication service, but are using innovative tools and devices that rely on wireless services, broadband Internet, and fiber optic lines to share and communicate with one another.

While consumers are redefining the communications marketplace, existing telecommunications law has just not kept pace with the changes.  As customers transform the marketplace choosing wireless instead of wireline services to the home; wireline communications companies remain encumbered by laws created in 1996 and older, written far before the wireless industry had truly taken root.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was developed twelve years after the breakup of the Baby Bells companies and amended the Communications Act of 1934.  It was enacted to promote competition in the local telephone marketplace, provide for the granting and licensing of broadcast spectrum, and reform the 1992 Cable Act.  While the law did much to address the state of communications at the time of enactment, and included the Internet in broadcasting and spectrum allotments, it did not allow for the drastic changes that have occurred in the marketplace over the past 17 years including the decision by consumers to drop their wireline services in favor of mobile alternatives.  Other innovations have changed the way Americans view television, and access information in an ever evolving marketplace.

Over sixty years had passed between passage of the original Communications Act of 1934 until the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted.  The communications industry is a fast-moving disruptive industry, and the law needs to reflect the rapid change of communications technology.  It is time to reform the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to ensure that it accurately reflects the current marketplace, and provides room for future growth, change and innovation in the communications industry.

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