Revisiting the Telecommunications Act of 1996
by Justin S. Brown, University of South Florida
More than two decades old, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (’96 Act) removed line of business restrictions allowing video and telephone providers to compete while promoting the broader goals of universal service and advanced telecommunications capability (e.g. broadband, high-speed Internet service). Because of the rise of mobile, digital technology and the Internet, some have called into question whether a potential rewrite to the ’96 Act is in order. After reviewing digital technology and market forces, this article reviews the policymaking process of addressing potential reforms to the ’96 Act based upon observations made from bi-partisan meetings with more than 20 different stakeholders. Based upon insights gleaned as a Congressional Fellow, this article discusses five main legislative findings involving the formation of telecommunications policy in the age of the Internet amidst a shift in regulatory philosophy that’s occurred as a result of the Trump administration.