Domestic common carriers and the Communications Act of 1934

by Leland Johnson

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The Communications Act of 1934 is serving well in directing changes in market structure in light of opportunities and problems posed by technological advance. The Act is broadly worded, thus giving the FCC and other parties wide latitude to make judgments and decisions. The author argues that the Act provides a suitable framework within which issues can be debated, evidence accumulated, critical assumptions examined, and a sounder basis constructed for decisionmaking. Examples of issues are presented and their resolutions discussed: (1) private-line services, (2) Hush-A-Phone decision in 1957 and Carterfone decision in 1968, (3) concerns about rate structure as a consequence of emerging competition in the industry, (4) accommodating to communication satellites and data processing/communications, and (5) problems in the future such as fiber optics and electronic message services. New issues may require modification to the Act, but it would be premature to seek amendments now for developments 20 or 30 years in the future.

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