What is the 1996 telecommunications act?

you mention it in your videos all the time, what exactly is this thing.


Did you try searching or looking it up on your own?

I've been asking myself whether or not I should look it up and learn about it, but then I think that if I do look it up, I might become even more angry because I would get the full grasp of what is going on. I'm in a balance right now.

it makes me spitting mad, for sure. Here's part of an outline I did for an upcoming documentary.


What did the 1996 telecommunications act do, in law? [highlights]

  • Removed the cap on how many radio stations one company could own
  • Limits on how many television stations could be owned by a single company were raised
  • Deregulation of Cable TV Rates
  • The FCC was now allowed to ease cable/broadcast cross-ownership rules.
  • In exchange for broadcast TV spectrum (intended for digital usage), Broadcasters were given free licenses to this spectrum in exchange for a promise to provide local news & public services. [This spectrum could have been auctioned -- some estimates are over $70 billion in value to the national treasury].
  • The act made it more difficult for the public to challenge broadcast license renewals, and increased the time between review. Effectively, this reduced broadcasters' public accountability.
  • CLEC System [? -- more research needed]
  • Communications Decency Stuff [Censorship etc]

How was this act pitched prior to actually passing?

  • By 2006, the legislation was supposed to have saved consumers a half trillion dollars -- over 300 billion in long-distance rates, 32 billion in lower local phone costs and 78 billion in lower cable bills.
  • Industry execs supporting the legislation provided projections that it would create 1.5 million jobs and boost the economy by $2 trillion.
  • The industry pitched that (essentially) by separating infrastructure from business, that they could get into 'each other business' which would promote more competition, and lower prices.
  • Pervasive Broadband penetration by 2010 "dizzying" internet speeds even in rual area
  • MassiveFiberoptic rollouts
  • Television Exec: "At a time when we as a country are legitimately concerned about creating information haves and have nots, it makes no sense to deprive the public of the opportunity to receive for free the high quality picture and sound that would otherwise be available only on a subscription basis.” -
  • (now argue Aero is illegal)
  • The "Analog Spectrum" would be given back to the federal government for other uses.
  • Fiber optics was needed, coast to coast, (promising to bring with it 45 mbit symmetric connections for consumers).


What has actually happened since its passing?

[I]t is a great day. It will be competition. It will give the American consumer greater choice. ... Iti s the greatest jobs bill we are likely to pass in this decade.

— Rep. Thomas Bliley, (R-VA), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee February 1, 1996

  • As a result of mergers and lack of regional competition, the telecommunications industry has shed more than 500,000 jobs, and lost 2 trillion dollars in value.
  • Cable television rates went up by 50% by 2003, and have since gone up by another 50%.
  • http://www.oregonlive.com/silicon-forest/index.ssf/2012/08/comcasts_annual_rate_hike_mode.html
  • Numerous studies documented that provit-driven media conglomerates, permitted under this, are investing less in news and information, and local news is failing to provide viewers with accurate information to participate in democracy
  • There are a few cases of industries & executives agreeing to provisions & requirements in the act, then immediately going to court to block their implementation.
  • Average citizens arguably became less involved because of increased bureacracy and less oversite requirements; from 1997-5, a small number of companies have spent more than $400 million on political contributions and lobbying in DC.
  • Everyone agrees there has been massive deregulation. The effect of that has arguably not been lower prices and more competition. If anything the opposite.
  • The massive wave of media mergers means that a very small hand full of companies control almost all american media.
  • The Internet is now shifting to be a major source of American media and (at present) is relatively free of this oligopoly.
  • The More Recent Wave of Mergers has included "last mile" providers -- content creators with content delivery systems (e.g. AOL/Time Warner). One supposes these companies wish to control the internet the same way that telephone and television are controlled.
  • Local TV stations produce less Local News because they are owned by out-of-town corporations.
  • National News is no longer about News, but more about ratings, sensationalism and making a profit.
  • A former Clinton staffer said the goal here was to strike a balance between industry and the public interest, but no sooner had the law passed than special interests went to court to stifle provisions they did not like.


How did it happen?


  • Talk about Corporate Malfeasance -- this can be argued to be a large part of the Job Loss -- Qwest and MCI WorldCom. However, MCI had also hoped to enter the local telephone market, but the "Baby Bells" refused to participate in a meaningful way to truly allow local competition.
  • Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jack Fields (R-TX) campaigned to allow vastly increased media concentration.
  • Mergers & conglomeration has manifest as single companies being responsible for all cable, telephone & internet services.
  • In regard to the "Free" licenses to the digital spectrum, companies refused to give up their analog TV space.
  • SBC sued to prevent access to local infrastructure.
  • BusinessWeek article notes that, in other countries, when incumbent phone companies were forced to give lease access to their infrastructure (at a reasonable rate) it was small, local companies who brought innovation to their communities. High speed internet at low prices.

What is going on right now?

  • Verizon & others are  refusing to rebuild/replace infrastructure after disasters. 
  • Expect a "big lobby push" from incumbents to do away with the "obsolete" PSTN network (only obsolete because they didn't upgrade it for 20 years!!!!) etc.


This also sounds to me like a service they'll throttle along with their "internet" access. Plus it'll allow them to restrict certain content based on what they would deem "bad juju"

I live in Romania and got the 1gb connection for ~18$ a month. And that includes TV. No idea what's going in the US and why they're doing this.


Ahh the telecommunications Act of 1996 How i hate tho

were i live we are being screwed over left n right n center over this act and always will be because the Government will never change things to make it easier for the common people.

Would that be the legendary internet connection that makes torrent clients crash due to inefficient caching and lack of system resources?