Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

History of U. S. Telecommunications Regulation

Tim Wu, Columbia University Law School, is publishing "A Brief History of American Telecommunications Regulation," in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Legal History (forthcoming).

While the history of governmental regulation of communication is at least as long as the history of censorship, the modern regulation of long-distance, or "tele," communications is relatively short and can be dated to the rise of the telegraph in the mid-19th century. The United States left the telegraph in private hands, unlike countries and as opposed to the U.S. postal system, and has done the same with most of the significant telecommunications facilities that have been developed since. The decision to allow private ownership of telecommunications infrastructure has led to a rather particularized regulation of these private owners of public infrastructure - similar to other laws governing "regulated industries," yet also influenced by the U.S. First Amendment and antitrust law.

Download the entire essay here.

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