Telecommunication Act Of 1996 Essay Research Paper

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Telecommunication Act Of 1996 Essay, Research Paper Telecommunications Act of 1996 In February of 1996, the U.S. Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Act was one of the most substantial changes in the regulation of any industry in recent history. The Act replaced all current laws, FCC regulations, and the consent degree and subsequent court rulings under which AT&T was broken into the “baby Bells.” It also overruled all existing state laws and prohibited states from introducing new laws. Practically overnight, the telecommunications industry went from a highly regulated and legally restricted monopoly to open competition. Or almost open competition. It has been more than three years since the Act became law, and while we have seen some changes,

they have not been as substantial as many analysts, law- makers, and regulators had anticipated. The Act addressed five major areas of telecommunications: 1) Local telephone service, 2) Long distance telephone service, 3) Cable television service, 4) Radio and television broadcasting, 5) Censorship of the internet. The primary goal of the Act was to promote competition for local telephone services, long distance telephone services, and cable TV services. Inter-exchange carriers (IXC) (such as AT&T, Sprint, and MCI) and cable TV companies (such as TCI and Jones Inter-cable) are permitted to offer local telephone service. The “baby Bells” or Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOC) (also called Local Exchange Carriers (LEC) such as BellSouth and Ameritech were permitted to

offer long distance telephone services and cable TV services. The RBOC were also permitted to manufacture their own equipment and to offer online information services and electronic publishing (but under tight controls until 2000). Incidentally, electric utility companies, another traditionally highly regulated industry, were permitted to enter the local telephone market. I believe that the Act made the most impact on Local telephone service. Local telephone service had been a regulated monopoly for almost 100 years. Local telephone services are currently controlled by a handful of RBOCs who have not been known for innovation or cost cutting. Under this new Act, local service was now open for competition. Other companies are permitted to build their own local telephone facilities

and offer services to customers. However, building entirely new facilities are prohibitively expensive. Under the Act, existing RBOCs would have to offer their telephone services to other companies (e.g., AT&T) at wholesale prices. These other companies will then resell the services to consumers at retail prices in competition with the RBOC. The wholesale prices are set by state regulatory agencies and typically are around 20% under the RBOCs current retail prices (but some states have set them as low as 40% under retail). One of the major concerns of permitting open competition were the very real fear that the profit motive would lead companies to focus on the most profitable markets and avoid the least profitable ones. For example, after deregulation of the airline

industry, prices dropped dramatically for large urban centers, but steadily rose for small rural centers. Common sense suggested that the same events would occur in the telephone market. Urban customers would benefit from increased competition while rural customers would see their prices increase sharply to accurately reflect the high cost of providing services in sparsely populated areas. Many of the RBOCs proposed price increases of $10 per month in rural areas. Therefore, the Act contained a universal service requirement, which mandated RBOCs to provide rural and other high-cost areas with similar types and quality of services and technologies that they provide to other areas and to do so at reasonable rates. RBOCs were also required to provide special, less expensive access